Teen Healthy Mind – Mental Strength

Mental Strength

Imagine yourself being the boss of your emotions, being able to manage your thoughts at will and behave in a positive manner despite what challenge you may face. Imagine yourself finding the courage to live according to your values and being bold enough to create your own definition of success. Let’s learn more about Mental Strength and see it in action with inspiring stories of success!

3 Ways to Develop a Habit

#1 Decide Your Focus

Written by Scott Todnem

We all want certain things in life. We have various goals and a multitude of interests. So how do we get there? What tools of the trade can allow us to find success? Here are three quick tips to develop a habit.

First things first: What do you want to do? Do you want to develop healthy habits of physical activity? Is hanging out with friends more of your priority? Do you want to consider reading a print copy of a book instead of looking at a bright screen before bedtime?

Although we can receive feedback from others, no one can really decide on a habit for us. It’s the consequence of a bad habit or the result of forming a good habit that gives us the intrinsic motivation for change. As long as your focus will bring about a positive outcome in your life, there are so many possibilities of what habit(s) you could continue and which ones you’d like to begin.

Common examples of desirable habits are developing a certain skill in a sport, improving in a musical instrument, getting better at a creative outlet (e.g., writing, drawing, or technology), and of course keeping up with friends and family. Examine your life as a triangle of physical, mental, and social well-being.  Make a decision based on if one of these is lacking— and why.

Nothing says a new focus needs to be permanent, so don’t worry you’ve made a wrong choice.

Reassess your focus points throughout the year to see if your priorities still align with your life goals. A great time for this is the first of the month. Is it a new month? Do a personal check-in. Ask yourself, “Are my behaviors truly driving me towards the life I want to live?”

Also, keep in mind that while it’s true that a person can have multiple new habits going at once, it really doesn’t need to be a huge life shift at all. In fact, that leads us to tip number two.

#2 Start Small

Written by Scott Todnem

We’ve all heard the term baby steps. Well, it’s generally great advice for habits. Sure, some people can go “all in” and make a huge change in just one day or one week— but that’s rare. Generally, things happen by effecting a major change, but in a minor way.

  • What this means is: Are you trying to be more organized? You can start by making the bed.
  • Want to get exercise each day? It happens by putting your shoes on.
  • Feel the need to get away from the screen? Begin by opening the blinds to let the sunshine in.

It all happens with a small start. Fill your water bottle, put the book on your bed stand, write a social event on the calendar, or pick up and hold your musical instrument. These small things lead to the next step, which leads to the next step, and so on and so on.

Which leads us to the next step! 😉

#3 Keep it Going

Written by Scott Todnem

This one is super obvious and it should go without saying, but a habit is only a habit if you repeat the activity. Just because you did something for a few weeks doesn’t make it a habit.

It often helps to think in terms of a lifestyle versus something like a resolution. New Year’s resolutions generally don’t stick because people view the new behavior as temporary.

Build a pattern or a streak of your healthy activity to keep the habit flowing. It is human nature to get into an “either/or” situation: a rut of unhealthy living or a path of productivity. What this means is, it’s easier to eat a whole bag of chips today if you already did that yesterday. It’s easier to self-deprecate and talk down to yourself if you’ve been doing so for a while. It’s easier to skip another night of sleep if you’ve been staying up late to watch Netflix or play video games all week. (Or, in the case of you students out there… all summer?)

Likewise, it’s easier to keep up with your habit if it’s simply just part of your day-to-day routine. Without being compulsive about things, how many books have you read this summer? How many days this week did you limit screen time to under two hours? How many weeks in a row have you been perfect with flossing and brushing your teeth?

Making it routine is easier said than done, of course, because this is the essence of a habit. That’s why starting small is so crucial, and that’s why creating a calendar streak of days is the next logical step. Miss a day? Don’t beat yourself up about it. All’s not lost. Just jump in the next day and you’re on track again.

There are two fantastic books on this topic, one entitled, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, and the other is “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. Both focus on small steps towards big things in life, and are my personal recommendations as essential readings on this topic.

Build those healthy habits in time, and you’ll feel better about yourself with that success and sense of accomplishment. Self-confidence spills over into social interactions, and of course, any stress relief in the form of healthy habits leads to better physical health and overall longevity.

 

7 Ways to Develop Mental Strength

#1 Develop your Self-awareness

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

Self-awareness is the key. How can you change or improve any aspect of your life if you are not aware that this part of your life requires attention? Self-awareness is essential because it gives you a better understanding of yourself, including your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and motivations. It empowers you to make changes and build on your areas of strength as well as identify areas where you want to make improvements. It is the first step to developing your mental strength.

Some ways to develop your self-awareness:

  • Practice mindfulness & meditation. Yes, meditate often, even if only for 5 minutes at a time.
  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Keep a journal – practice daily self-reflection. Check out BLOOM’s self- discovery Daily Journal HERE.
  • Write down your goals, plans, and priorities.
  • Ask trusted friends to describe you.

#2 Make Time for Quiet Reflection

Between your hectic schedule, your phone constantly calling for your attention, and the pressure to be productive, there seems to be little room for quiet time in your life.  Setting aside 10 or 15 minutes a day to be alone with your thoughts is essential to building your mental strength. It’s a choice, and thus it’s your choice to make time for quiet reflection in your day. Doing so is an important and integral part of growth and renewal. It reduces stress and restores mental wellness.

Quiet reflection allows your brain to rest and helps you pay attention better. It also gives you a chance to turn down the inner noise and increase awareness of what matters most. It cultivates mindfulness through recognition and appreciation of the present moment. Why would you want to deprive yourself of such a positive way to develop your mental strength?

Some ways to make time for quiet reflection:

  • Do more meditation – make it a daily practice.
  • Do more journaling. Check out BLOOM’s self- discovery Daily Journal HERE.
  • Go out for a walk by yourself, if possible, in nature – take your dog with you if you have one, s/he will love you for it!
  • Practice mindful coloring – get yourself a mindfulness coloring book, they are amazing.
  • Look out the window next time you are a passenger in a car instead of looking at your phone.

#3 Challenge Yourself - Step Outside your Comfort Zone

Stepping outside your comfort zone is another step toward developing your mental strength. Have you ever heard the quote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” (Walsh, n.d. )? So, what does it mean to step outside your comfort zone? It means doing things that you are not comfortable with doing. It encourages you to test what you believe to be your limits and discover that those limits are often self-imposed. They are not necessarily a reflection of what you are actually capable of.

Remember that taking risks, regardless of their outcome, are growth experiences that will enrich your mental strength. Every time you try something new, and allow yourself to be open to whatever experience arises, you are learning and expanding your repertoire of life skills and self-knowledge. As a result, you also expand the size of your comfort zone and you become better equipped to deal with new challenges. You also become more productive, more adaptable to change, and a lot more creative. Try it and see for yourself!

A few ways to step out of your comfort zone:

  • Hang out with people who value stepping out of their comfort zone.
  • Throw out things you have not used in 1 year.
  • Take a day offline.
  • Have a day of kindness.
  • Smile to strangers.
  • Eat something unusual.
  • See failure as a teacher.
  • Look for role models of resilience.

#4 Practice Gratitude

Did you know that scientists have been studying the practice of gratitude very closely? What have they found? Research shows that practicing gratitude on a daily basis can:

    • Enhance your long-term happiness by 10%, Enhance your positive emotions, increase self-esteem, and strengthen family relationships in times of stress.
    • It can also make you more optimistic, more giving, and optimistic.
    • Gratitude improves our overall physical health.

All those benefits are crucial to the development of mental strength, therefore you should practice gratitude without the slightest hesitation.

Some ways you can practice gratitude:

  • Keep a gratitude journal and add one thing to it every day.
  • Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them.
  • Notice the beauty in nature each day.
  • Say thank you for the little things your loved ones do for you, things you normally take for granted.
  • Commit to one day a week when you won’t complain about anything.
  • Smile more often!

#5 Be Kind to Yourself

Self-compassion and being kind to yourself should never be confused with self-pity. Kindness toward oneself is simply recognizing that life can be difficult at times and that you need to do things to make life a little easier. That is not a bad thing.

Just as important as it is to be kind to others, it’s equally important to practice kindness toward yourself. This is the power of acceptance and growth. Being kind to yourself was found to promote happiness and confidence, not to mention that how you treat yourself sets the tone for how others will treat you. Studies show that self-compassion helps your brain function more efficiently and improves your immune system. Positive self-talk boosts your self-esteem and sense of self-worth, which can empower and motivate you to turn a bad day into a good day. That is a sign of mental strength. In light of all these benefits, it certainly does not hurt to give self-compassion a try, does it?

Try these ways to be kind to yourself:

  • Learn to calm your mind – yes, meditate more!
  • Spend time with people who do good things, are uplifting, and positive.
  • If you stumble, be your own best friend.
  • Write yourself a love letter.
  • Think of a way to make your life easier, then do it.
  • Respect yourself fully.
  • Simply remind yourself why it’s smart to be kind to yourself.

#6 Take Good Care of your Body

Taking care of your body helps you care for your mind. That’s a golden rule. Mental and physical health are very closely linked. One often affects the other. It’s the body-mind connection. Studies show that your physical health has huge impacts on how you feel, how your mind functions, and your emotions. Taking care of your body means increased energy levels, a better ability to accomplish your daily goals, and an increased capacity to handle daily problems and challenges that arise in your life. It also helps you concentrate on any given task, which means that your tasks will take less time to complete. It also influences your decision-making skills. Do you see how taking care of your body and your health will be a huge asset in your efforts to develop your mental strength?

Some good ways for you to take care of your body:

  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet with lots of vegetables and fruits.
  • Find a physical activity you like and exercise as often as you can.
  • Get plenty of ZZZZ’s.
  • Don’t use tobacco, alcohol, or drugs.
  • Oh, and yes, meditate more!

#7 Take a Step toward your Dreams

As you now know, mental strength is crucial to reaching your goals. One way to cultivate your mental strength is to take a first step toward your dreams. Mental strength and taking steps toward achieving dreams do feed into each other. It’s a very powerful feedback loop. As you take those first steps you may feel afraid as you are stepping out of your comfort zone. That’s completely normal. But as you climb past the first small steps that you set for yourself you will feel less anxious, more confident, and more comfortable pushing your boundaries. You will also learn to be realistic, humble, and to set achievable deadlines for your dreams. This will help you avoid unnecessary failures that could discourage you from moving forward. And as a result of all this, your mental strength will grow bigger and stronger.

Some ways to take a step toward your dreams:

  • Don’t wait until the conditions are perfect – the best time to start is NOW.
  • Believe in your dream, visualize it, feel it as if it was already happening.
  • Take one step at a time – set realistic deadlines and goals.
  • Go for it and enjoy it!

Resources

A list of BLOOM's trusted resources to find more information and support… VIEW ALL

Trusted Organizations
Teen Tribe // Support Group

Teen Tribe provides peer-to-peer support groups for teens faced with mental health challenges and/or difficult family dynamics.

Dr RJ – Life Coach

Coaches teens one-on-one with a focus on leadership in relationships, academics, and personal development.

Inward Bound Mindfulness Education

Guides teens and young adults in self-awareness, compassion, & ethical decision making, and empowers them to apply these to their lives.

Recommended Books, Apps, & Podcasts
Happify

Happify's science-based activities and games can help you overcome negative thoughts, stress, and life's challenges.

Shine App

An inclusive self-care app that inspires users to look after their mental health with the help of meditation, gratitude exercises and journaling.

Mood Kit App

Improve your mood and become your own expert with the wisdom and guidance of MoodKit at your fingertips!

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