If You Have These 6 Characteristics, You Are A Mentally Strong Person

Mental strength is vital to living a useful and fulfilling life, and some would argue that it is the difference between being an ordinary or extraordinary person. It is also important for resisting stress and depression. It is, in short, the thoughts and behavior that affect the overall quality of your life, and it involves being aware of your emotions, learning from pain, being able to train your brain to think in a helpful way, and managing the way your emotions influence how you think and act.

When you imagine a mentally strong person you probably imagine a mountain climber, or a passionate public speaker and prominent figure. And while these people certainly have elements of mental strength, all-around mentally strong people often go under the radar. They tend to have the following characteristics:

1. Not aspiring to be happy all the time

Seeing happiness as a necessary permanent state can lead to an unhealthy and unrealistic attitude towards negative emotions. Mentally strong people accept both positive and negative emotions — an attitude which is key to having a realistic view of a situation, and to building resilience. Australian social researcher Hugh Mackay argues that a “fear of sadness” is dangerous. “Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are,” he said.

2. Being persistent

Psychologist Angela Lee, through a range of studies, found that perseverance or “grit” was the most important characteristic — more so than emotional intelligence, IQ, appearance or physical health — in the success of students, teachers and professionals. Grit, she explained, involves mental stamina and having a passion for long-term goals. Perseverance also requires consistency in achieving goals and not giving up easily when facing adversity.

3. Believing in yourself

Researchers have found that believing in yourself is vital for helping athletes overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, and the same applies to non-athletes.

4. Being able to bounce back from setbacks

Ten elite sports performers were asked to define mental toughness — a component of mental strength. One thing they all highlighted was the mental ability to use a set back rather than to be negatively affected by it. Likewise, mentally strong people are not necessarily free of things like anxiety or depression, but they know how to take advantage of such difficult emotions or states. They can, for example, channel their nervous energy into creativity and appreciate the heightened focus that comes with anxiety.

5. Having experience and being older

Mental strength isn’t something we are born with; it is acquired with constant practice, over very long periods of time. Researchers have found that mental strength increases with age. There is also a direct correlation in athletes between practice time and mental strength levels — and the same would apply to non-athletes.

6. Embracing change

As the saying goes, change is inevitable. Therefore, it is important to be flexible and able to adapt to new circumstances, as fearing change can be paralyzing.

How to increase your mental strength:

Increasing your mental strength involves a lot of hard work, often in the most difficult circumstances. Here are a few things that, if done consistently, will help:

  • Focus your mental energy wisely: Let go of things you have no control over (like the weather) and refocus on things you can control (preparing for a storm).
  • Be productive: Practice constantly changing negative thoughts to productive thoughts. This isn’t the same as being positive; it means focusing your energy away from what is wrong over to what you can do.
  • Handle discomfort: Accept your feelings without letting them control you, and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone.
  • Reflect: At the end of each day or week examine what you’ve learned about how you think, handle emotions and behave, and consider what you’d like to do better the next day.

— Tamara Pearson

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