The idea of a “mental strength exercise” causes many people to imagine near-torture experiences. Some people picture Navy SEAL-like endurance tasks that cause them to push their bodies to their physical limits.
Others imagine suffering through cold showers just to prove to themselves they can stand freezing cold temperatures long after their brain tells them to stop.
Those sorts of tasks could probably be considered mental strength exercises. After all, it takes mental strength to push yourself to do things you thought you couldn’t. But fortunately, there are far less miserable ways to build mental muscle.
Here are five mental strength exercises you can do from your couch:
1. Label your emotions.
It sounds too simple to be helpful. Butsometimes, just putting a name to your feelings helps take the sting out of them. And it helps you make more sense out of your situation.
For example, if you’re feeling anxious, name it. Just noticing that you’re feeling anxious could help you make sense of why all the thoughts running through your head happen to be catastrophic. After all, anxious feelings lead to anxious thoughts.
Or, if you’re feeling sad about something, label it as sadness so you can begin healing. Suppressing your emotions only wastes precious time and energy. As soon as you acknowledge how you’re feeling, you can begin to address the issue.
2. Establish a goal and identify one step you can take today.
It’s easy to let life pass you by. But when you’re goal-oriented, you take charge of your time and your future.
Whether you want to hit the gym five times per week or you want to pay off your car loan early, establish a goal. Then, identify one small step you can take right now to help you reach that goal.
Then, write a list of reasons why you want to accomplish that goal. Carry that list with you and read it over when you’re tempted to give up. Reviewing your “why” can help you stay on track, even when you aren’t feeling particularly motivated.
3. Identify three things you feel grateful for.
Gratitude provides benefits ranging from better quality sleep to increased happiness. And it only takes a minute or two of your time.
So take a quick minute and simply identify a few things you have to be grateful for in your life. Whether you appreciate that it was a sunny day or you’re happy to have clean water, your gratitude list might include simple things that you easily take for granted.
4. Write yourself a kind letter.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably too hard on yourself. You might call yourself names, doubt your abilities, and tell yourself that you’re not good enough.
Speaking to yourself in a critical manner isn’t motivating. It won’t drive you to do better or accomplish more. Instead, you’ll hold yourself back.
Self-compassion is the key to doing your best. So write yourself a kind letter that reminds you that you’re doing just fine. If you struggle to know what to say, pretend you’re writing to a friend who is going through a rough time.
Then, read over that letter whenever you need a reminder that it’s OK to be imperfect.
5. Practice mindfulness.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you feel like you’re never living in the moment. Whether you’re rehashing the events that happened earlier in the day or worrying about what you need to do next, it’s tough to be present sometimes.
Mindfulness can help you feel more alive and more present.
Take a few minutes to allow yourself to just be in the moment. Pay attention to your thoughts.
Notice your judgments and allow them to pass. If you begin thinking about the past or the future, gently return to the present.
Your mind will wander–especially at first. But with practice, you can become better at learning how to live in the here-and-now.
Build Your Mental Muscles
Although you can’t stay on the couch forever if you want to grow mentally stronger, you can get a good start on building mental muscle without lifting a finger.
Work on training your brain to think differently and focus on managing your emotions. Then, focus on taking positive action and you’ll be on your way toward reaching your greatest potential.
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