To become physically strong, you need to train the body. To be come mentally strong you need to train the mind.
Gaining physical strength requires that you engage in a set of training routines on a consistent basis. This is the same for mental strength. If you want to increase your mental strength, you will also need to have a consistent training routine.
Research from the fields of neuroscience and psychology provide lots of evidence for ways to improve your brain and develop mental toughness and resilience. What we know for sure is that our brain is capable of changing when it is subjected to different activities and experiences.
Here are the 10 ways to train your mind.
1. Improve your self-awareness
“Don’t believe every thought you think”
Our brain is a survival organ and it is job to remember and look for things in our environment that could harm us. This is the reason why if you get six ‘As’ and one ‘D’ on a report card, you focus on the ‘D’. In addition, our past experiences, current beliefs and feelings influence the thoughts we have on a daily basis. This means our interpretation of events in most cases is not accurate but coloured by our perception or filter of the world.
Becoming aware of our thoughts is the door to self-awareness. Was what that person said actually rude or did they say it the same way your mother used to say it? Or when people are in a new relationship they see their partner as this perfect human being. A few months later the very thing they found cute may now annoy the hell out of them.
Stop – Evaluate – Respond to your thoughts.
OK, we get it, meditation can be boring. But it is because of its boring nature it is such an effective tool. Meditation is the conscious mind telling the subconscious to sit down and focus on something (i.e., breath, sounds or thoughts). Since most of us live on autopilot, meditation is the conscious choice to control and become aware of our subconscious mind.
When you meditate, do you have a million thoughts rushing through your mind? Good, become aware of these thoughts and just watch them. Can't sit still for more than 5 minutes? Good, train your body to listen to you, not for the body to be in charge of you. Although meditation can be uncomfortable when you are just starting out, always remember it is like a marathon and needs time and consistency. Don’t give up. Stay the course and over time you will start noticing moments of silence as well as moments of deeper awareness. And as you continue your practices those moments will grow longer.
3. Relax your mind
You can only sprint for so long. And with your mind you can only have it racing for so long. It is in our moments of relaxation that we get the benefits of training. Physical muscles grow between the breaks at the gym and mental fitness is also achieved through times of relaxation. Although resting has been stigmatized in the western culture, not resting actually hurts our productivity. Adequate rest increases our focus, creativity and vitality which makes us more efficient and productive. Resting can look different for different people. Basically you are looking for adaptive activities to give you a break from the daily stressors. This can be nature walks, dance, singing, painting, working on a car, a board game, hiking with friends and listening to music.
4. Tune out the noise
In the age of digital distraction and rampant consumerism there are many things vying for your attention. From notifications, messages, social media and advertisements it is important you find time in your day for peace and quiet. Other strategies such as limiting notification or setting do-not-disturb hours can help minimize the noise.
5. Prioritize sleep quality
Sleep is an important human activity that helps us consolidate memories, clean out the brain and improve creativity and problem solving skills. Many articles talk about getting enough sleep, however, we would recommend you also focus on getting quality sleep. Quality sleep means consistent, uninterrupted sleep with sufficient period deep and REM cycles. How do you get quality sleep? Have a consistent bed time routine. Limit screens and other agitating distraction at least one our before bedtime. There are many fitness trackers that allow you to measure your sleep quantity and quality such as the Apple Watch and Health Gauge device.
6. Learn to let go
There are many things going on in the world that can bring worry, anxiety and even depression. Always ask yourself if the thing you are focusing on is within your control or not. Remember stressing yourself out does not mean you care more about what is going on. If it is within your control ask if it is important or not important? If it is important, then do what you need to and let it go after the necessary action is done. If it is not within you loci of control then accept that you can’t control it and focus on that which you can control.
7. Learn a new skill
Learning builds millions of new synaptic connections in the brain. Remembering maintains them. When you learn any new skills whether it be a language, a new recipe or a dance you are literally building new and stronger connections in your brain. These new connection help develop resilience especially as you age and can have protective effects against Alzheimer’s.
8. Write your thoughts down
If you find your self overthinking, you can write your thoughts down to bring them out of your brain. This is a very effective tool as it allows you to better analyze what is going on or put it aside and deal with it later. Writing down your worried thoughts increases self-awareness and writing down things you are grateful for improves your focus on the positive aspects in your life.
9. Remember to take a deep, slow breath
When studying the US Navy Seals, I learned that when a Seal is pinned down in a situation and there is no hope for escape, the Seal is taught to take a deep breath and calm his mind. Why? Because no matter how bad things seem outside the first thing you need to gain control off is your mind.
Peak Performance Breathing:
1. Take a slow (4 seconds) deep inhale through your noise and allow it to expand your chest, rib cage and belly
2. Pause for 2 seconds
3. Now exhale slowly through your mouth for 4 seconds
4. Repeat this cycle at three times.
Tip: Let your exhales be slightly longer than your inhales for added relaxation.
10. Train your cognitive skills
Like going to the gym you need a tool to train your cognitive and vision skills. Peak Cognition is a mental performance training program that trains your attention, visual processing speed, ability to perceive complex movement and working memory. These mental skills have been associated with improved reaction time and decision-making accuracy in athletes.
Start you mental fitness journey with a 14 - Day Trial.