Get your brain in shape with a little mental strength training.
You have an estimated 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s 70,000 chances to build yourself up or tear yourself down.
If you call yourself names, doubt your abilities, and second-guess your decisions, you’ll harm your performance (and most likely you’ll also be risking your physical and psychological health). But the good news is, you can change the way you think.
Here are five exercises that will train your brain for happiness and success:
1. Differentiate between ruminating and problem-solving.
Thinking about strategies that would help you overcome an obstacle is helpful, but imagining yourself unable to tolerate pain isn’t productive. Whenever you find yourself thinking about something for an extended time, take a minute to think whether you’re ruminating or problem-solving.
If you’re actively solving or preventing problems, keep processing. But, if you’re simply rehashing things that already happened or making catastrophic predictions about things you can’t control, change the channel. Get up and do something to get your mind off the issue and keep your brain focused on more productive activities.
2. Give yourself the same advice you’d give to a trusted friend.
If you’re like most people, there’s a good chance you’re overly critical of yourself. But beating yourself up and magnifying your mistakes will only drag you down.
Studies have linked self-compassion to everything from improved psychological well-being and better body image to enhanced self-worth and increased motivation. So make it a habit to speak to yourself in the same way you’d speak to a trusted friend.
3. Label your emotions.
Most people have an aversion to talking about or showing their feelings. As a result, many people have become quite distanced from their feelings, which makes it hard for them to even recognize how they’re feeling in any given moment.
And when adults do label their feelings, they often do it in an indirect manner. Rather than saying, “I felt sad,” someone might say, “I had a lump in my throat,” or, “My eyes got watery.” Or, instead of saying, “I am really nervous,” someone might be more included to say, “I have butterflies in my stomach.”
Spend a few minutes every day acknowledging your emotional state. Label your feelings and consider how those emotions are likely to affect your decisions.
Whether you’re feeling sad about something in your personal life, or you’re worried about something going on in the office, your emotions will spill over into other areas of your life if you aren’t aware of them.
4. Balance your emotions with logic.
Whether you’re faced with a tough financial decision, or you’re experiencing a family dilemma, you’ll make your best decisions when you’re able to balance your emotions with logic. When your emotions are running high, take steps to increase your rational thinking.
The best way to balance out your emotions is to create a list of the pros and cons of your choices. Reading over that list can help take some of the emotion out of the decision and equip you to make the best decisions.
5. Practice gratitude.
Gratitude has been linked to a host of physical and psychological benefits, including happiness. One study even found that grateful people are 25 percent happier.
So whether you make it a habit to talk about what you’re grateful for over breakfast every morning, or you write in a gratitude journal before bed, train your brain to look for the good in life. It could be the simplest, yet most effective way to boost your well-being.
Create a Healthy Mindset
The conversations you have with yourself have a profound effect on your life. If you want to reach your greatest potential, it’s important to build your mental muscle. Exercise your brain every day and over time, you’ll train your brain for happiness and success.
Amy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, college psychology instructor and internationally recognized expert on mental strength.
This article appeared in psychologytoday.com on 21 March 2017