If you’re feeling worn down, beat up or stressed out by the rigors of life, you’re not alone. Life is hard, and reaching your full potential amid life’s inevitable challenges is even harder.
During the course of my career as a licensed clinical social worker, college psychology instructor and psychotherapist, I’ve seen firsthand that building mental strength is the key to navigating whatever life throws your way (that’s why I wrote 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do). Fortunately, everyone has an opportunity to grow stronger every day.
Similar to physical strength, developing mental strength requires healthy habits and regular exercise. With daily practice and dedication, you can build the mental muscle you need to be your best.
Here are seven daily habits I’ve noticed in my work that mentally strong people do on a regular basis:
1. Express gratitude
Whether you keep a gratitude journal or you make it a habit to say what you’re thankful for every day, express your gratitude. Doing so prevents self-pity and helps you maintain a brighter outlook on life. The best news is, being thankful only takes a minute or two of your time.
Read more: 6 Things That Determine How Long You’ll Live
2. Step outside your comfort zone
Doing something every day that causes a little discomfort is key to self-growth. Making a speech when you’re nervous or exercising even when you feel tired are opportunities to become better. Not only will you learn more about yourself, but you’ll also gain confidence in your ability to do things you once thought impossible.
3. Be alone with your thoughts
Hectic schedules, digital devices and the pressure to be productive mean there’s little room for quiet time. But setting aside just 10 minutes a day to be alone with your thoughts is essential to building mental strength. Journaling, meditating or just soaking in the silence can help you develop a healthier mindset.
4. Practice self-compassion
The conversations you have with yourself play a critical role in the way you feel and behave. Talk to yourself like a trusted friend. Create a supportive and encouraging inner monologue that will also give you a firm reality check when necessary.
5. Assert your personal power
Declaring yourself a victim of unfortunate circumstances keeps you stuck. Refuse to use language like, “My mother makes me feel bad,” or “My boss makes me work late.” Those statements can be reframed into something more empowering, like, “My mother doesn’t control how I feel. I’m responsible for my emotions.” Or: “There will be consequences if I don’t work late, but it’s still my choice.”
6. Label your emotions
Your emotions play a major role in every decision you make. Identify how you’re feeling, and take a moment to consider how those emotions influence your choices. You’ll make the wisest decisions when your emotions and your logic are balanced.
7. Use your mental energy wisely
You only have so much time and energy. Focusing on things you can’t control, rehashing what happened yesterday and worrying about what might happen tomorrow wastes your precious resources. Devote your brain power to productive activities, like solving problems and reframing overly negative thoughts.
Amy Morin is a psychotherapist, keynote speaker and mental strength trainer. She is the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.