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Mental Strength: How to Deal with Negative Thoughts

Having negative thoughts, about yourself or others, is very common (and completely normal). This usually tends to happen when your ego starts to creep in, hoping to keep you in the same place. Why? Because growth requires you to step into the unknown, and change can be scary.

Your ego prefers familiarity and wants to keep you safe, and this can manifest in different ways. For example, clouding your mind with thoughts that put you down, telling you that you're not good enough or making you question if you made the correct choices in life. How you confront this resistance and tackle these thoughts depends on your mental strength capacity.

What is mental strength?

Mental strength is the power to be in control of your thoughts and actions. It's a combination of self-awareness, daily habits, personality traits and skills that allow individuals to deal with conflict, challenges and difficult situations.

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to test your mental strength:

  1. How frequently can you let mistakes go and focus on what's next?

  2. How often do you get nervous, and let it affect your performance?

  3. Are you able to notice when you're stressed, and do you take the necessary steps to relax?

  4. Do you give up after failing to reach a goal?

  5. How regularly do you overthink things, not being able to quiet your mind.

  6. How frequently can you overcome self-doubt when it creeps in?

Benefits of improving mental strength:

By understanding how you show up in different situations, you will be able to tell if you need to improve your mental strength. Research has shown that people with higher levels of mental strength are able to:

  • Stay calm after making mistakes

  • Adapt when faced with adversity

  • Perform well in tough or stressful situations

  • Focus on tasks better throughout the day

  • Worry less, stay in the present moment more

Exercises to improve mental strength:

Negative thoughts can be overwhelming, and can be the start of a downward spiral. It's important to learn how to control them, before they start to control you. Here are some tips on how to deal with negative thoughts when they come up:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge the negative thoughts: As soon as the thought pops up, acknowledge it, and accept it without judgment. Don't ignore it or try to push it away. Instead, just become aware of it. Once you have acknowledged your negative thought, challenge it. Ask yourself if it's true or if it's just an assumption. Is it possible that a positive outcome could arise from this situation?

  2. Visualize a positive outcome: At the beginning or at the end of each day, take a moment to think of any worries, fears or uncertain situations you're currently facing — both big and small. "Will I complete my tasks on time?" "Am I living my life to the fullest?" "Will I get that promotion?" "Am I working towards my future goals?" Start to visualize what you believe to be the best outcome to the situation. Not just any good outcome, but the best possible one you can imagine. When you keep training you mind to expect a positive outcome, you will start to see pathways or opportunities arise that bring you one step closer to that outcome.

  3. Seek support: Don't be afraid to seek support from friends, family, or a professional if you are struggling with negative thoughts. Talking to someone can help you see things in a different light, and also find new ways to cope.

  4. Do at least one challenging thing each day: Growth doesn't happen by accident. You need to challenge yourself on purpose, open your mind to discovering new things, and actively push yourself to be better. Think of something that's outside your comfort zone, and work towards that goal by taking one small step every day. This could be speaking up for yourself, saying no to others, enrolling in a course you thought was 'too tough', public speaking, learning how to cook, going rock climbing in nature. Growth lives in the unknown, so keep taking small steps even if it's uncomfortable and you will see progress.

  5. Compliment yourself everyday: Self-love is an essential component of self-growth. Every day, think of one thing that you appreciate about yourself. It could be a physical attribute, a personality trait, or even a skill or talent that you have. Better yet, try to do this in front of a mirror. When you see your reflection, pause for a moment and tell yourself what you love about yourself that day. For example, "I like that I am strong and resilient," or "I appreciate the ways I think and solve problems," or "I see my thoughts and have the control to make things happen."

Working on building your mental strength takes a lot of work. With regular practice, you will start to overcome negative thought patterns, understand that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn how to respond instead of react. Mistakes are an essential part of human life. If we do not make mistakes, how would we ever learn and grow?

As you embark on this journey of self-growth, remember to take each step forward as a lesson, whether it's a success or failure. It might not always be an easy path, as you could be exposed to many challenges, critical situations and unpleasant feelings. However, whenever you feel like you want to give up, remind yourself of why you started in the first place - why self-growth is important to you. This will help keep you anchored, and motivate you to keep going.

Good luck!

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