5 exercises for mental toughness

Being your own boss, working in your own hours and taking more control over your income could feel like living the good life. Seldom do we think about the psychological price we have to pay for uccess; social isolation, lack of time for self-care and, in some cases, anxiety and stress.

The good news is that entrepreneurship is also an opportunity to exercise your mental toughness. “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is an example of the power of mental strength.

So what mental muscle building activities you can take every day to reach your greatest potential?

1. Meditate for 10 minutes a day

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Research into the benefits of meditation and mental health is overwhelmingly positive.

Like mindfulness, meditation helps to be in tune with the present moment and living fully right where you currently are. This will diminish the fear that holds many people back and provides them with the clarity to focus on what’s most important.

In addition to feeling less stressed, meditating daily will also make you more forgiving to your peers and stifle negative emotions.

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There are countless apps for beginners like Calm app, that include breathing exercises and body scans that the app walks you through step by step.

You don’t need to do the whole 10 minutes, try two minutes and build upwards as you get more comfortable.

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2. Apply the 10-minute rule

Are you a master procrastinator? Do you always know what you need to do but just can’t make yourself do it? Getting started is usually the toughest part of any task.

When you’re tempted to put off something, use the 10-minute rule. When you eye the couch while you had planned to start on that business proposal, simply tell yourself, “I’m going to do this for 10 minutes. Once I get to the 10-minute mark, I’ll decide whether to keep going.”

Nine times out of 10, you’ll keep going.

Mental strength won’t magically make you feel motivated all of the time. But it can help you be productive, even when you don’t feel like it. 

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3. Do one difficult thing every day

Just as you would go to the gym to get stronger physically, stepping out of your comfort zone daily is what helps you expand your capacity for mental toughness.

You won’t improve by accident. Challenge yourself. Of course, what’s challenging to you might not be to someone else, so you need to analyse where your comfortable boundaries are.

Then pick something slightly outside those boundaries and take one small step every day.

That could mean speaking up for yourself when it’s uncomfortable or enrolling in a class you don’t feel qualified for.

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You can even read a book you don’t find interesting. If you plough through an experience like this, you get the confidence to know you can do it.

Those unwanted feelings of discomfort then seem less and less strange.

If you get through the stress of being in a job interview once, the next one won’t be quite as bad. Push yourself to become a little better daily.

4. BLUE isn’t your colour

Everyone experiences irrational and inaccurate thoughts sometimes. And while there are many types of distortions, the acronym BLUE sums up the most common thinking errors: blaming myself, looking for the bad news, unhappy guessing, and exaggeratedly negative thoughts.

Studies show, however, that you should behave like the person you want to become. Take action first and you’ll change the way you think and feel.

For example, if you feel sad you’re likely to hunch your shoulders, avert eye contact, and participate less in conversations. Those behaviours keep you in a depressive state.

Instead, smile, put your shoulders back, and started some friendly conversation, and you’ll feel an instant boost in your mood.

When you’re feeling insecure, act confident. Research shows that acting confident increases other people’s confidence in you. So the next time you’re feeling stuck, act as if you feel strong already.

5. Count your blessings

Being grateful immediately improves psychological health. Studies show gratitude increases happiness, reduce depression, create healthier relationships and improves your sleep.

Make gratitude a daily habit by identifying three things you are thankful for. Your gratitude list could be as simple as feeling thankful for starting that business or appreciating the rain falling on your roof.

Further studies show your brain will physically change when you make gratitude a habit. Over time, being thankful becomes second nature – and it only takes a couple of minutes of your time.

When motivation dries up, it’s your habits that will keep you going when you feel like quitting. Build these habits relentlessly.

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