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Five Habits to Keep You Mentally Strong

Trauma can test the limits of our mental and emotional fitness. Whether a devastating medical diagnosis, unforeseen relationship breakup or accidental injury, trauma is never planned, but the state of our mental fitness has a huge bearing on our ability to recover.

I have a close friend who runs marathons. She prepares her body for months prior to the actual event, running and training daily so that when she runs the actual event, her body will be able to handle the stress that the marathon will wreak on her body.

Our difficulty with trauma is that we don’t know when it might strike so we don’t have a six-month warning to prepare for the worst. The only way to be ready is to maintain a consistent regime to keep you mentally fit for the moment when life throws you a curve ball.

Here are some habits you can incorporate into your daily life to keep your body and mind, ready and resilient.

1. Food

I’ve met people who meticulously control every morsel that passes their lips. Whether they are counting calories, carbs or protein, they monitor everything they put into their body. Others satisfy their tastebuds and cravings with little concern for the impact that fast food can have on their organs. It’s the same with the mind—some people are very careful about the media they consume, while others absorb an open buffet of information that can be harmful and hurtful.

Only you can judge what is right for you, but research shows that positive and uplifting input can greatly enhance resilience. I have this image of my mind as a glass of water—it can only hold a limited amount. If my glass is filled with fears and worries, it’s like red dye in my glass of water. I can’t get it out, but I can keep pouring in more water and eventually it will force out the red dye and make it clear again.

There’s an abundance of great stuff out there. Check Apple Podcasts and Spotify to find brilliant discussions and interviews on all sorts of wonderful concepts. Watch videos that make you laugh because laughter truly is an amazing medicine, Read books that are enlightening and stories that highlight the strength of the human spirit.

2. Meditate

There are people who swear by this habit, and others who declare that it doesn’t work for them. After years of meditating myself, I have to say that most of the time it doesn’t feel like it’s working. But what I now realise, that it’s not about mastering the technique, it’s about doing it regularly and the results are evident in the other areas of my life. When I meditate, I never feel like I’m getting it right, and yet I find that the rest of my life feels less chaotic, peaceful and handleable.

The process of quieting my mind allows space for greater creativity and calm, and when the unexpected happens and meditating is the last thing I want to do, I now realise that is when I need to do it most.

Thank goodness there are so many easy ways to create a meditation habit. Go to your phone’s app store and check out all the different apps available. Most of them have a free trial so you can get a feel for which one is right for you.

3. Expression

When I think about the people that I know who are mentally fit, one of the things they all have in common is a place to express their feelings. This may take the form of a trusted friend or family member, a counsellor or psychologist. The important thing is to have an outlet to freely speak your mind without fear of judgement or recrimination. By talking it through, issues are resolved, and solutions are found simply through the process of expression.

Another way to supplement this is to keep a journal or diary. Let your thoughts flow onto the page and you will find that this process will relieve your mind and help you to look at things more objectively, creating a sense of order instead of chaos.

4. Socialisation

Studies amongst people who live to a happy and healthy old age have found that there are two main elements that have contributed to their wellness—a plant-based diet and healthy socialisation. We are by design beings that seek connection as part of a fulfilling life. Find your tribe, those like-minded people who bring out the best in you. It’s easy to work out who they are by asking yourself how you feel after catching up with them. Do you feel zapped or sapped? I seek out the zappers, the ones who I love spending time with and hopefully zap in return!

5. Contribution

You’ve no doubt heard the quote, “It is better to give than to receive.” If you’ve tried it yourself, you know what I mean. It doesn’t matter if it’s letting someone else go before you at the checkout or bestowing a million-dollar grant to a university—the act of giving is in itself an indescribably good feeling. Knowing that you have contributed to someone else having a better day or a better education, anything that improves the life of another, is just as much of blessing to you as to them.

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