If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this: Your life won’t work until you do. So much of what you want to accomplish with your health, fitness and personal goals all depends on the state of your mind. If you let your inner critic run wild, you trip up; we all do. In fact, thinking you can’t do something is the fastest way to weaken your mental state, depleting your energy and drive. Capture a “can do” spirit by using these tips to end the year (and start the next one) mentally strong.
1. Set specific goals. Setting goals helps mental resilience as you feel your best when invested in a target that demands your focus and pushes you beyond your comfort zone. Once you achieve a goal, belief in your abilities soars. Your resolve for new goals is strengthened because you think: “I did ______, so I can totally do ________.” Get specific and set concrete goals with action steps. New Year’s Resolutions tend to be general and vague, like “lose weight” or “drink less wine.” Instead, try: “Sign up to run my first 5k in March and do the Couch to 5k program to prepare.” Or, “Lose the last 10 pounds by giving up sweets during the work week and by working out six days a week.” Or maybe: “Only indulge in red wine on the weekend as a planned treat.” Whatever the goal, be very specific and create a plan of action.
2. Write down successes. The end of the year is a natural time to reflect and think about what you want to improve upon in the year ahead. But before you focus on change, focus on your successes this past year. Sometimes we skate right by all of the things we’ve accomplished or improved upon because we quickly move to what’s next. Stop and celebrate you before you move on to next year. What are your 2015 wins? What challenges did you take on? What did you accomplish? Make a list of highlights and the steps you took that you are most proud of. Ruminating in your wins is like drinking a tall glass of self-confidence. Cheers!
3. Practice self-compassion. You might think mental resilience is all about grit and being tough, but, in fact, you gain an incredible amount of strength by being kind to yourself. When you beat yourself up, you take away your personal power because you aren’t on your own team. When you practice kindness and treat yourself with the love and concern you’d show a child or a best friend, you increase your mental resilience. Self-compassion is a way of expressing your self-worth. This little gem from writer Anne Lamott illustrates it perfectly, “We begin to find and become ourselves when we notice how we are already found, already truly, entirely, wildly, messily, marvelously who we were born to be.”
4. Stay in the present. “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” So true! Worry is negative future-casting. Why would you do that? When you remind yourself to stay in the present moment—right where you are at this minute—you can let go of any anxiety and worry and actually enjoy what you are doing. Freeing your mind from the drain of negative emotions helps you stay mentally strong.
5. Tap into a power phrase. The right power phrase at the right time can give you a quick mental lift—to finish the last rep, run the last mile or to give your best effort. At a recent group fitness class, the instructor had on a tank top that said, “The gym is my happy hour.” That little phrase made me smile and gave me a little push to maximize my workout. I love the simple (yet effective) power phrases like: “Let’s do this,” “I’ve got this” or “I am strong.”
6. Schedule a challenge. This year my personal challenges were all about obstacle course racing. Completing obstacles that scared me due to height or plunging my face into muddy water to go under a wall made me realize that I can do things despite fear. Even if you are scared, you can still overcome. Shonda Rhimes, writer and producer of all the TGIT shows (think Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy), challenged herself to a “year of yes” to overcome panic attacks from being an introvert. Rising to meet the challenges you set for yourself is the quickest way to feel like a superstar.
Related: How To Become Unstoppable
7. Recharge. Nothing can drain your mental strength more than never taking time to recharge your body and mind. Recharging goes beyond getting enough sleep. To fully rejuvenate, you need to take a pause from your normal and busy routine, and take some time for you. We all need thinking space and a little alone time to recharge. Plan a trip to your favorite coffee shop. Take a long leisurely walk by yourself. Journal. Cozy up to the fire and sip some tea. Meditate. Make sure you schedule time for activities that recharge you best.
8. Let go of self-criticism. Accept yourself as a flawed human being. None of us get through life mastering perfection. As writer and social scientist Brene Brown says: “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” When we realize the things we berate ourselves for are just part of being human, we can let go of critiquing our every move. It’s okay to make mistakes; we all have days or moments when we wish we could have a do-over. Quiet the critic in your head and make space for positive, uplifting and happy thoughts.
9. Try a workout you’ve never tried before. When you do new workouts that your body isn’t expecting, you see (and feel) results. But new workouts also work out your mental muscle because you are willing to take on the unknown. Many people stay in the comfort zone of routine but that won’t help your mental game. After your first spin class, your first 5k or your first HIIT workout, you think: “Wow, I did this and I loved it. I wonder what else I should try?” Taking on and conquering the unknown gives an immediate boost to your mental resilience by fueling your confidence and making you better equipped to take on challenges in and outside of the gym.
10. Ask yourself this question: How could I be happier? What has to happen in your life for you to be happier than you are right now? Describe what your life would look like and how it would change. Once you have that picture in your mind or on paper, make a list of the things you have to do to get there. When you are happy with your life, you are more likely to face fears, take on challenges and feel mentally resilient. Science shows us that happiness leads to success because feeling good about our lives leads us to see more opportunities and take more chances.
Practice working out your mental muscle and watch how life gets better across the board! And if you have a favorite way to boost your mental strength, we’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments section below. P.S. You can use these tips to start your New Year strong too.