Before I talk about how you can build up your own mental strength, it’s important to bust a couple of myths you may have heard about resilience.
Myth No.1 – Being resilient is about your ability to endure stresses and challenges.
In fact, the opposite is true. Research has shown that trying to endure and just keep going not only doesn’t make you more resilient, it can lead to burnout, insomnia and billions of lost productivity.
That’s according to a study by Shawn Achor, a happiness researcher who found that, ‘Resilience is how you recharge, not how you endure.’ This is my go-to definition!
So, rather than enduring, resilience is about finding ways for yourself to take a step back and reset.
Once, we can adjust our mindset to this new way of thinking about resilience, we can re-focus on improving our mental strength by finding ways to recharge that work for us.
Myth No.2 – People are either resilient or not & this can’t be changed.
Frankly, this is nonsense – studies have show how adaptable our brains can be. Research has proven that studying for The Knowledge test changed the brains of London taxi drivers.
Which is good news as it means we all have the capacity to redevelop our thought processes and train our brains to find more resilient thinking patterns.
One of the best ways we can do this is by spending time on activities that help us to recharge. Unfortunately, a lot of us often don’t do this and may experience poor menta health or even burnout.
If only we showed the same care towards ourselves as we do for recharging our phones & laptops…
But if we prioritise our own mental health and actively put effort into taking care of it & actively building our mental strength & fitness, we can change our mindset to find more helpful thinking habits that allow us to recharge and increase resilience.
Training our minds to increase resilience
The key to this training is finding ways that help us to recharge and restore our mental reserves, and doing it regularly.
Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. But while lots of us set aside time to go running, cycling or to the gym several times a week, we don’t always apply the same dedication to regular activities that improve our mental health.
Most of us are so busy trying to keep up with the 24/7 hamster wheel of 21st century life that it feels like there isn’t enough time in a day.
But it really doesn’t need to take a long time. Doing it regularly, even for just a few minutes a day, is more important than how long you do it for.
Finding 5 to 10 minutes a day for something that you find inspiring, invigorating or relaxing and restorative, will be more effective than doing something for an hour once a month or going on a week-long retreat once a year.
You just need to work out what will keep you mentally well for the longest period of time. ‘You do you!’
Ways to recharge your mind
There is no single, correct way to recharge yourself.
We’re all unique people, so the important thing is to find the way that works best for you in the long-term. For some people it’s spending time in nature, for others it’s exercise, or reading a book, or a talk with a friend.
Whatever your way of recharging is, try and find a way of doing that thing regularly – if possible every day for even a few minutes.
It’s also important that while you’re doing your activity you immerse yourself fully in it. Try to switch off from everything else and just pay attention to what you’re doing right then and there. Leaving my phone behind has been a total game-changer. No interruptions – this time is all about me-time!
For example, if your recharging activity is being in nature it’s not always going to be possible to go on a big hike in the forest every day. It might be more realistic to go and sit or walk around your garden or a park for 10 minutes.
But to get the most out of that activity, you need to really invest and commit to it. So, while you’re there, leave your phone at home and notice how it feels to breathe in the fresh air, notice the flowers and the colours around you, notice the birdsong.
The drip feed effect of doing that for just five or 10 minutes every day will have a positive impact on your mental resilience. You are finding more calm, more capacity in your stress container and becoming more likely to be resilient, as a result of this small regular investment in yourself.
Doing less work & taking a break can actually be more productive!
One of the ways I recharge myself is mindfully making a cup of coffee every morning. This means that while I do it I focus completely on that task, I notice the feel of the coffee pot as I wash it, the smell as it brews, the taste when I drink it.
Before I drink it, I do a few morning stretches, again mindfully paying attention to how my body feels, and then I as I enjoy my coffee, I take a few minutes to write down what I feel gratitude for each morning. This gets me off on the right foot, with a positive mindset for the day.
It’s a little routine which sets me up for the day. The whole process only takes around 10 minutes.
Simple things work & make all the difference. Find what & when suits you. Why not experiment… have some fun.
The building blocks to mental resilience
That is my approach, your way will be different – and it can be fun figuring out what works best for you.
If you’re not sure where to start, the NHS published it’s research-based Five Ways To Wellbeing, which you can use to improve your own mental resilience.
In a nutshell, they are:
- Connect – find a way to connect with people; make time to have a conversation with your loved ones, friends and family. Or it can simply be not going to the self-service checkout when you go shopping and making sure to ask the cashier ‘how’s your day going’ and forming a small human connection .
- Keep learning – try something new. This needn’t be something formal, like a qualification or learning an instrument. Google something, search YouTube for how to do something. I look up and learn about the birds I’ve seen while out walking, and it can be a joy – today I watched a sparrowhawk 2 metres away through my living room window, as it climbed through a bush looking for prey!
- Take notice – pay attention to and enjoy the present moment. This is what I was talking about when I mentioned my morning coffee routine or noticing flowers, birds and colours when you’re in the garden. Find moments to pause, step back from your thoughts and notice what’s around you. Be curious, remark on the unusual!
- Be active – movement is good for our mental health as much as our physical health. This can be going for a 10k run or something on a smaller scale – you don’t need to be a fitness fanatic. For example, I work downstairs, but I always make sure I use the upstairs loo, so that I’m increasing my activity a little all the time.
- Give – giving to others makes them and you feel good! Just giving a smile to someone is enough, or if you’re buying an ice-cream or in a coffee shop, you can choose to pay for the next person in the queue. These little acts can help spread positivity and will give you a more positive mindset too.
You don’t necessarily need to do all five of these every day. But if you consider them the building blocks for your own mental resilience, you can choose the ones that work best for you and begin incorporating that into your life on a regular basis.
The brilliant news is that we all have the potential to be resilient.
If we invest in ourselves and invest time to recharging our batteries, we can unleash that potential, build our resilience and find ways to positively deal with whatever life throws our way. It’s about bouncing back & if we have done it once, we can do it again.
Look out for an upcoming blog about how to build mental resilience in your organisation, or if you’d like more tips on how to do this in your company, send me an email.
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