New Year’s resolutions aren’t particularly effective—in fact, most people give them up by mid-January. The reason resolutions fail is because people set big goals to change their lives without working on the mental strength they’ll need to succeed.
So this year, as the resolution you set on December 31st falls by the wayside, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, take a step back and commit to building the mental muscle you need to achieve your goals.
Here are five things you can start doing now to make yourself mentally stronger this year:
1. Practice labeling your emotions.
Putting a name to your feelings decreases their intensity. So whether you’re feeling sad, anxious, angry, or scared, acknowledge it—at least to yourself.
Also, pay attention to the way those emotions can affect your choices. When you’re feeling anxious you may be less inclined to take risks. When you’re excited you may be more impulsive.
Increasing your awareness of your emotions can decrease the chances that you’ll make irrational decisions based on emotions only.
2. Establish healthy ways to deal with uncomfortable emotions.
Naming your emotions is only part of the battle—you also need skills to regulate your emotions. Think about your current coping skills.
Do you eat when you’re nervous? Do you drink to calm down? Do you vent to your friends when you’re angry? Do you stay home when you’re anxious? Those common strategies may make you feel better in the moment but they will make you feel worse over the long-term.
Look for coping skills that are good for you over the long-term (ones that will help regulate your emotions now without wreaking havoc on your health, relationships, or tasks in the long-term). Keep in mind that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for you so you need to find what helps you deal with your emotions best.
Experiment with various coping skills to find out what works for you; deep breathing, exercising, meditating, reading, coloring, and spending time in nature are just a few of the strategies that could help.
3. Identify and replace unhealthy thought patterns.
The way you think affects how you feel and how you behave. Thinking things like, “I can’t stand this,” or “I’m such an idiot,” robs you of mental strength.
Pay attention to your thoughts. You’ll likely notice common themes and patterns. Perhaps you talk yourself out of doing things that feel scary. Or maybe you convince yourself that you have no control over your life.
Respond to unproductive and irrational thoughts with something more helpful. So instead of saying, “I’m going to mess this up,” remind yourself, “This is my chance to shine and I’m going to do my best.” Changing those conversations you have with yourself can be the most instrumental thing you could do to change your life.
4. Take positive action.
The best way to train your brain to think differently is by changing your behavior. Do hard things—and keep doing them even when you think you can’t. You’ll prove to yourself that you’re stronger than you think.
Establish healthy daily habits as well. Practice gratitude, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and eat a healthy diet so your brain and your body can be at their best.
Seek out people who inspire you to be your best. And create an environment that supports your efforts to build a healthy lifestyle.
5. Give up the bad habits that rob you of mental muscle.
All the good habits in the world won’t be effective if you’re performing them right alongside your unhealthy habits. It’s like eating donuts while you’re running on a treadmill.
Pay attention to your bad habits that rob you of mental strength (we all have them). Whether you feel sorry for yourself or you resent other people’s success, it only takes one or two to keep you stuck in life.
Once you become aware of your bad habits, devote energy into replacing them with healthier alternatives. Then, you’ll be able to step out of the hamster wheel and actually move forward toward your goals.
Become your strongest self
Just like it takes time and practice to become physically strong, building mental strength takes dedication as well. But building mental muscle is the key to feeling your best and reaching your greatest potential.
Commit to practicing mental strength exercises every day and make 2018 your best year ever.
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