Building a Stronger Mind
Most of us are familiar with the concept of building muscle. In a nutshell, to make our muscles stronger, we need to consistently put them under stress, and push them to their limits. Even pushing them just slightly past their range of normal stress will help them to grow and develop. In much the same way, we can train our minds to become stronger. By introducing new, and challenging stimulation to our minds, we can strengthen them and increase their ability to approach new problems.
"The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow."
Why Should We Push Our Minds?
Imagine yourself one year from now.
Imagine that this future-self is better equipped to deal with most stresses that come your way. You have more fun because you are not stressed as much. You have healthier interactions with friends and family because you are more present in your relationships. You do not buckle under pressure the way that you used to. Lastly, you are able to more confidently face your fears with a stiff middle finger.
There are countless benefits to increasing your mental resiliency and all of them point to a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. I am not just spouting an opinion; the research is there.
Check out this article from The National Center for Biotechnology Information for more information on the benefits of Psychological Resilience.
Click here for an article published by The American Psychological Association about Exposure Therapy and how it can help you surmount your fears.
Building a tolerance for adversity and uncertainty will not only help you deal with your current stresses and obstacles, but it can also better prepare your mind for unexpected life events such as a layoff, a new career, a death in the family or divorce.
How Can I Get Started??
Meditation is often linked to certain religions. At its core, however, meditation is a simple skill that can go alongside any belief system. Francis Lucille, a teacher in non-dualism is famously quoted to say "Meditation is a universal "yes" to everything."
What this quote boils down to is the ability to accept everything as it is. This sounds difficult because it can be. Since we do not often use this mode of thinking, it can take some time to build the skill. They call it a "meditation practice" because it takes practice, and it is always a process. Unlike most physical journeys, there is no point of "arrival."
If you can bring a sense of acceptance into your life, even for our most basic sensations such as hunger, pain, temperature etc... you can build resiliency to events that do not go the way you had planned.
To learn a few basic meditation skills, click here for an article from Mindful.org.
Face your fears every day
We spend much of our unconscious lives avoiding pain. One of the most common forms of mental pain that we experience is fear. Since we avoid this massive part of our lives, we are never truly able to reach our potential and all too often, we do not pursue what we want most. Pursuing anything of extreme worth in our lives is often difficult, and with difficulty comes fear.
If you never talk to that fellow human you have a crush on, you will never have the potential for a meaningful relationship with them. If you let your fear of failure get the best of you, you probably won't ask for that raise or promotion at work. If you stop yourself from having a difficult conversation with a family member, you may never mend a broken relationship.
There is good news that goes against common wisdom: We do not have to overcome our fears. We only need to build a tolerance to fear, so that we can act despite our fear. Resiliency in the face of fear is a skill that you can develop, and strengthening that skill is as simple as doing something uncomfortable, or something that scares you each day. It does not have to be earth-shatteringly scary, but even overcoming the small stuff in your day-to-day will build it over time.
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
This might seem like a strange thing to throw into the mix. However, there is evidence to back the theory that cold showers help to build a stronger mind. This exercise is the perfect example of exposure therapy, which I mentioned briefly in the beginning.
The supposed benefits of cold showers are many and varied, but I want to focus on our topic of mental resiliency. Do you find it hard to motivate when you are approaching a task that just sucks? Yup, that is your humanity... and that sensation is normal. We have discussed that mental resiliency is a skill that you can grow, and forcing yourself to do unpleasant things is one of the ways in which you can do just that.
Forcing yourself to take a cold shower, an experience that almost no one wants is a low-risk way that you can do this. Please consult your doctor before diving headfirst into an ice bath (especially if you have heart and circulation concerns). Check out this article by Entrepreneur for more details.
Take a shower like normal, but for the last 30 seconds turn the nozzle to ice-freaking-cold.
Repeat this process for a week or so.
After some time, you may choose to simply keep your entire shower cold. This takes some guts, but I believe in you.
You can also choose to slowly decrease the temperature of your shower to acclimate.
"Rinse, wash, repeat." as they say.
To Sum It All Up
To sum it all up, if you want a better life, you will likely need a stronger mind than the one you have right now. Your current mind has adapted to deal with your current problems and stresses. It is not yet equipped to deal with the change you wish to see in your life. It is also remarkably within your grasp to do something about it. If you want to approach the curve-balls that life throws at you with grace (or at least more grace), you need to build a stronger mind. Find what motivates you to push beyond your boundaries and approach adversity with wild abandon.
"You cannot climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets. You must work your ass off!"
Take care of yourself and have fun while doing it. Working on, and investigating yourself CAN be fun if you approach it with that mindset. Go forth and kill it today.
Carpe freaking Diem!
I am a life coach in the Boulder/Denver area, and offer phone/zoom coaching sessions. I also offer free consultations, so if you want to learn more, click HERE to get in touch.
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