What do mentally strong people do?
Mentally strong people have healthy habits. They can manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in ways that set them up for success in life.
When it comes to building up your mental strength and resilience, you may focus too much on what we should be doing, and not enough on what we shouldn’t do.
You can use these 13 things that mentally strong people don’t do to become mentally stronger in your life.
Everyone can develop mental strength
What's in this article
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to:
- Replace self-pity with gratitude
- Protect your power by forgiving others
- Embrace change rather than shying away from it
- Focus on things you can control rather than things you can’t
- Become comfortable with displeasing others
- Learn to take calculated risks
- Come to terms with your past
- Avoid making the same mistakes over and over again
- Collaborate with other people instead of envying their success
- Be tenacious and accept your failures
- Embrace alone time
- Focus on giving rather than taking
We all possess some degree of mental strength, with room to improve.
Two phrases you may say often could be ” I can’t help the way I feel,’ or ‘I just can’t get rid of these negative thoughts in my head.”
We all feel and think like this at times.
It’s hard to summon the mental strength to change how we think, act, and feel.
However, no matter what your circumstances, there’s always hope.
Just as there are those, who are predisposed to develop physical strength more easily than others, mental strength also seems to come more naturally to some people.
There are several factors at play.
Genetics may play a role in whether you may be more prone to mental health issues, such as mood disorders. Some people have personality traits that help them think more realistically and behave more positively. We have plenty of information that epigenetics play a larger role in the outcomes than just genes.
You may be more predisposed to a certain trait, disease, or disorder but your environment and lifestyle ultimately control what happens with it. You can think of the genes as a gun and pullet and epigenetics as the trigger. Your genes load the gun but environmental and lifestyle factors pull the trigger.
Life experiences influence how we view ourselves, others, and the world around us. That doesn’t mean that we can’t improve our mental state. Anyone has the power to increase their mental strength.
Mental strength comes down to improving our ability to regulate emotions, manage thoughts, and behave positively with our beliefs and values, despite our circumstances. But developing mental strength requires a three-pronged approach.
We need to be aware of how our thoughts, behaviours, and emotions control, and sometimes hinder rather than help us. We need to choose behaviour that’s based on balanced feelings and rational thoughts.
Here’s a negative self-perpetuating cycle example.
In a social situation, where someone initially feels shy about talking to colleagues, they may start to avoid initiating conversations, which leads to them engaging less with him. They then think that he’s being ignored because he “lacks social skills.” The more they get caught up in this thought pattern, the more anxious he becomes in future social situations.
If we learn to identify irrational thoughts and replace them with more realistic ones, we start to behave in ways that are in sync with our deepest values and beliefs, and we can manage our emotions instead of them controlling us.
You might be thinking that this is easier said than done, but do we understand what it means to be mentally strong?
Mental strength isn’t positive thinking.
Only thinking positively can be just as detrimental as being very negative; it’s about being realistic and rational.
Being mentally strong isn’t about acting tough, but rather about acting in alignment with our values. It doesn’t mean ignoring our emotions or suppressing them, but understanding how they influence our thinking and behaviour.
Instead, it’s about understanding our thoughts and feelings well enough to decide when to listen to them or know when to challenge them. Mental strength isn’t self-reliance; it’s about admitting that we don’t have all the answers, and knowing when to ask for help.
Mental strength isn’t synonymous with mental health.
The healthcare industry often talks in terms of mental health versus mental illness. Mental strength is different. Just as we can be physically healthy even with specific ailments, like diabetes, so too can we be mentally healthy, even if we have depression, anxiety, or other mental health difficulties.
It’s easy to feel mentally strong when life is going well, it’s harder to access your mental strength when challenges inevitably arise.
What happens when you lose your job, you get broken up with or have a family crisis?
In situations such as these, what if you learned what not to do so that we could be more resilient in the face of stress— particularly on the hard days?
The question is, ‘how can you strive to be a little stronger than who you were yesterday?
13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do
1. They Don’t Waste Time Feeling Sorry for Themselves
Mentally strong people don’t sit around feeling sorry about their circumstances or how others have treated them. Instead, they take responsibility for their role in life and understand that life isn’t always easy or fair.
Yes, it is important to be sad, grieve or go through any emotion that arises, but self-pity can keep us stuck and make us think “why even try?”.
Time doesn’t heal everything, contrary to what people say – it’s important with what we do with that time.
We can learn how to feel without getting trapped ruminating on our losses or failures. There are still things to live for even when we lose something or someone precious to us; we need to focus on what we do have, not just on what we don’t have.
As an added benefit, such a practice will improve your health.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that grateful people have stronger immune systems, sleep better and enjoy an overall better quality of life than the average person.
You can learn more about the benefits of gratitude and the power it can hold for you.
2. They Don’t Give Away Their Power
They don’t allow others to control them, and they don’t give someone or some circumstance power over them.
They don’t say things like, “My boss makes me feel bad,” because they understand that they are in control over their own emotions and they have a choice in how they respond.
What you can do – Watch the language you use.
Try to avoid saying things like “I have to…” “I must…” or “…it drives me crazy”.
Recognize that you can decide how you react and feel—you can choose in any given situation.
This will make your stress work for you and not against you, propelling you into positive action.
Oprah Winfrey could hold a lot of grudges if she wanted to. As a child, she was teased for being so poor that she had to wear potato sacks as dresses. She also experienced repeated sexual abuse as a child and became pregnant at age 14; her child died shortly after being born. But Winfrey worked hard at several media jobs, eventually landing a position as a TV news anchor. It seemed like her hard work and resilience were finally paying off. Then she was suddenly fired.
But rather than stewing in resentment for her boss, Winfrey focused her energy on creating her talk show. By the time she was 32, she was a national hit, and by 41 she had built a net worth of $340 million. She’s used her wealth and influence to help disadvantaged people around the world and inspired others to realize their potential. She could have resented all the people who hurt her before she was successful. But she chose to focus on her future instead.
Choosing forgiveness has been clinically proven to increase your pain tolerance, reduce stress, and help you live longer.
Forgiving someone is for you, not them.
Forgiving them allows you to have peace. It doesn’t make it okay for what they did to it. It’s forgiveness to yourself to not hold onto what you’re feeling – whatever emotion it is.
What can you do?
To become more forgiving, start by identifying your words and thoughts that make you seem like a victim.
Stop talking about how someone made you do something or about how you have to do something you don’t want to do.
Instead, think about what you are choosing to do, and take full responsibility for how you spend your time and energy.
3. They Don’t Shy Away from Change
Mentally strong people don’t try to avoid change but they embrace and welcome it – they’re willing to be flexible when it happens.
They understand that change is inevitable and believe in their abilities to adapt.
You can still have the same goal for what you’re trying to do but be flexible about how you get there.
Learn to embrace the change rather than shying away from it.
Whether you’re trying to quit smoking, wake up earlier, or go to the gym regularly, making a change can be daunting, and it’s easy to shy away from it by creating excuses. Making excuses ultimately limits your potential and cheats you out of a fulfilling life.
You can look at the difference between Nokia and Apple. Nokia didn’t adapt and change
When then the first iPhone was released in 2007
- Valuations 2007
- Nokia: 110 Billion
- Apple: 104 Billion
- Valuations 2021
- Nokia 22 Billion
- Apple: 2.2 Trillion
What can you do?
Try these five steps the next time you want to make a personal change:
- Create a 30-day goal for yourself. Don’t set out to transform your life overnight — you’ll get discouraged when it doesn’t happen.
- Establish concrete, daily behavioural changes to work toward that goal.
- Anticipate obstacles and plan how you will respond to them.
- Establish accountability. Get friends and family to support you and check-in on your progress.
- Monitor your progress. Hold yourself accountable by writing down your progress each day. Keeping track of your small achievements will keep you motivated when the going gets tough.
4. They Don’t Waste Energy on Things They Can’t Control
You won’t hear a mentally strong person complain over lost luggage or traffic jams for long. Instead, they focus on what they can control in their lives.
They realize that sometimes, the only thing they can control is their attitude towards things.
Let’s look at the Canadian icon, Terry fox.
He was diagnosed with a severe form of cancer at the age of 18. His treatment required the amputation of one of his legs. His chances of survival were merely 15%. Fox understandably felt like he had lost control of his life. But he soon became inspired by a story of someone with a prosthetic leg who ran the New York City Marathon.
After his operation, Fox began running and completed a marathon himself.
He was able to organize a fundraiser that involved running a marathon-length route every day- across Canada.
Halfway through the journey, he got sick.
People were inspired by his courage and ambition and kept donating to his cause – even after he stopped running.
He passed away a few months later but was able to raise $23 million for cancer research. In his terrifying situation, Fox focused on what he could control and died in peace as a result.
Do you find yourself spending time or energy trying to prevent bad things from happening, wishing that other people would change, or trying to manage every minor aspect of a situation?
It’s good to be strategic and detail-oriented, but assuming that you have full control over your destiny is incredibly exhausting.
Besides being exhausting, it can increase the feeling of being overwhelmed and, paradoxically, give you less control over your situation, because you will give away your power, energy and resources trying to control things that you simply aren’t able to.
Because there are some things in life that you can’t control or plan for.
Start accepting things that you can’t do anything about, such as traffic, illness, or how people treat you. Remind yourself that you can’t control all your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them.
5. They Don’t Worry About Pleasing Everyone
Mentally strong people recognize that they don’t need to please everyone all the time. They’re not afraid to say no or speak up when necessary. They are still kind and fair but can handle other people being upset if they didn’t make them happy or meet their expectations.
People-pleasing can be a tough habit to break.
We lose sight of our values and who we are which drains our willpower and motivation when we try to please others instead of ourselves.
Getting rejected or criticized by others hurts at the moment. Doing something that doesn’t align with your goals, aspirations or values will kill you years later.
To build mental strength, get used to risking disapproval and catch yourself when you let your people-pleasing tendencies take control of your decisions.
6. They Don’t Fear Taking Calculated Risks
Taking a calculated risk is different than being reckless and foolish. Spending time weighing the risk to benefit ratio is something that a mentally strong person does.
They’re fully informed of the potential downsides before they take action.
Othmar Ammann was a Swiss engineer who immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century. Ammann worked his way up the career ladder at the Port Authority of New York City until he finally became director of engineering. For as long as he could remember, he had dreamed of being an architect. So at age 66 — when most people don’t want to take any more risks — he left his coveted job and started his architectural firm.
Ammann’s venture was successful, and he created architectural masterpieces until he was 86 years old. Amman’s story illustrates that taking calculated risks makes the difference between living a mediocre life and living the life of your dreams.
Does this sound like you?
- Do you struggle to make important decisions in life?
- Do you sometimes impulsively decide because thinking about the consequences is too anxiety-provoking?
- Are you holding back on your dreams because worst-case-scenario outcomes scare you too much?
If so, emotion is probably interfering with your ability to make logical choices.
Our emotions don’t always align with actual risks.
For instance, although the odds of dying in a car crash are 1 in 5,000 while the odds of dying in a plane crash are roughly 1 in 11 million, many people are more afraid to fly than to drive.
To keep your emotions in check:
- Review the pros and cons of taking a risk.
- Imagine the worst thing that could happen if you took a risk.
- Come up with a plan for what you would do if the worst-case scenario came true.
- Ask yourself how much the decision will matter in five years.
This exercise will help you balance emotions with logic and make better choices.
If you struggle with the decision, you may want to read and under Mel Robbins – 5 Second Rule.
It helped her (and hundreds of thousands of people), to make a confident choice.
7. They Don’t Dwell on the Past
Mentally strong people don’t waste time dwelling on the past and wishing things could be different.
You can mourn a passing, death, or loss, but dwelling on the past doesn’t serve your present nor future self.
Acknowledge the past and say what you’ve learned from it.
There’s no need to constantly relive bad experiences or fantasize about the glory days.
Instead, they live for the present and plan for the future.
Everyone has unpleasant memories from childhood or past experiences that can make it hard to move forward. But if you let your dark past haunt you, you will miss out on your bright future.
Remember how troubled Oprah Winfrey’s childhood was?
Imagine what would have happened if she had spent all her energy ruminating on what happened to her instead of creating an amazing life.
Because she had every right to do so.
To make peace with your past, recognize the emotional toll of dwelling on the past rather than moving forward.
Then forgive people who may have hurt you and change behaviours that keep you stuck in the past.
Moving on from your past is hard work. Seeking professional help as you do this is always a wise investment.
If you’re having trouble moving past or dwelling on something, we suggest that you talk with something about (BetterHelp affiliate).
Even if it’s just for a few sessions to get an understanding of what you can do feel better
8. They Don’t Make the Same Mistakes Over and Over
Mentally strong people accept responsibility for their behaviour and learn from their past mistakes.
They don’t see mistakes as problems but as learning experiences.
From this, they don’t keep repeating those mistakes over and over.
Instead, they move on and make better decisions in the future and use their experience for their next adventures.
Let’s look at Macy’s…
In the mid-19th century, Rowland Macy founded a dry goods store in a small, quiet town in Massachusetts. To promote his store, one summer Macy organized a large parade through his town. But it was extremely hot that day, and almost no one showed up.
Macy’s initial business failed because it didn’t get enough publicity and was too far from most people. He learned a valuable lesson from his experience. When he opened another store in New York City and began holding parades every year in the fall when the weather was cooler. His store became a massive hit, and Macy’s went on to become one of the biggest chain department stores in the world.
When something goes wrong, it can be tempting to beat yourself up over it.
The mentally strong ask themselves two questions when they make a mistake:
What could I have done better, and what will I do differently next time?
” If you’re not failing, you’re not innovating enough” – Elon Musk
9. They Don’t Resent Other People’s Success
Mentally strong people can appreciate and celebrate other people’s success in life.
Remember that strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up.
The true beauty in life is realizing that just because someone is winning at life, it doesn’t mean you’re losing.
They don’t grow jealous or feel cheated when others “surpass them”.
Surpass them is using a subconscious belief that they’ve accomplished more than we or we haven’t met our expectations of ourselves.
Instead, they recognize that success comes with hard work (some luck occasionally), and they are willing to work hard for their chance at success.
Let’s look at my favourite thing, chocolate.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups could have become a serious threat to Hersey’s Chocolate dynasty. One of Hershey’s employees, H.B. Reese, began building a rival candy company in the same town while he was still working at Hershey’s chocolate factory.
Most employers today would be angry or resentful, but instead of eyeing Reese’s actions suspiciously, Milton Hershey gave him his full support, providing Reese with special equipment to make his vision of the peanut butter cup a reality.
The two men collaborated for their entire lives, and eventually, the two companies merged.
Milton Hersey could have done what Thomas Edison did to Nikola Tesla, if he wanted.
Resentment and envy are easy human traits to follow, but with the right mindset, you can build on other people’s success and power rather than wallowing in envy.
You can see these people as friends, not foes. You’re able to create momentum for positive change. Remember, you are the 5 people you surround yourself with.
The next time you feel envious of someone else’s success, think about how you can celebrate their accomplishments and work with them in the future.
Work with them. Promote them. Be a big supporter of them.
10. They Don’t Give Up After the First Failure
Mentally strong people don’t view failure as a reason to give up.
Instead, they use failure as an opportunity to grow and improve. They are willing to keep trying until they get it right.
“It’s important to be stubborn with your goal but flexible on how you get there. ” RETWEET
We are in a unique society right now. We can accomplish things at a very fast rate, probably faster than we have been in previous times.
This sets you up for disappointment when you don’t achieve your goals overnight – this is compounded by seeing only positive results on social media.
The truth is that whatever goal you have, achieving it will be tough, and it might take longer than you think.
The histories of today’s industry leaders illustrate this point.
Amazon wasn’t profitable for its first seven years of operating, and Apple’s first iPod was on the market for three years before sales took off.
So whatever your goal is, commit to consistent practice, and don’t expect results in the immediate term.
11. They Don’t Fear Alone Time
Mentally strong people can tolerate being alone and they don’t fear silence.
They aren’t afraid to be alone with their thoughts and they can use downtime to be productive.
Bill Gates takes a whole “think week“. Where he isolates himself for a week by just reading.
They enjoy their own company and aren’t dependent on others for companionship and entertainment all the time but instead can be happy alone.
Do you reach for your phone, switch on a TV show, or tune into your favourite radio station every time you are by yourself?
Today’s society pressures us to be surrounded by people — either physically or virtually — all the time.
While this might help you feel important or connected, mentally strong people know that real alone time can lead to rejuvenation, inspiration, and reflection – even the extroverts.
Try regularly setting aside an hour to think about your life goals and whether you are on track to fulfilling them. You can even just use that time for peace and reflection, it doesn’t always have to be for progressing forward.
What you can do?
Listen to your feelings and identify any negative emotions that need to be addressed. Keeping a journal or meditating during this hour
can be a powerful tool to clean the clutter out of your mind, the same way you would defragment a hard drive to make it run faster.
12. They Don’t Feel the World Owes Them Anything
Mentally strong people don’t feel entitled to things in life. They weren’t born with a mentality that others would take care of them or that the world must give them something in life.
They’re able to create opportunities based on their own merits and hard work
While this may sound made up, a teenager named Ethan Couch killed four people while driving drunk in 2013. In the court, his lawyers argued that Ethan suffered from “affluenza,” meaning that his coddled upbringing had made him incapable of understanding his responsibility to follow the law.
Remarkably, Ethan got off without any jail time, reflecting society’s tolerance for the idea that the world owes certain people more than it owes others.
When something bad happens to you, you might be told, “You deserve better.”
It might feel nice to hear this, but the more you buy into the lie that the world owes you something, the more miserable you will become when reality doesn’t match your expectations.
Remember Terry Fox, the Canadian icon who dedicated his last ounce of energy to serving others? Throughout his undeserved battle with cancer, Fox never lost sight of his focus on giving, and that gave him the peace he needed to contend with his brutal circumstances.
What you can do?
Whether you’re trying to get along better with your co-workers, create genuine friendships, or find a career you love, stop thinking that the world owes you something in return for your hard work.
Instead, focus on what you can contribute. You will be far happier for it.
13. They Don’t Expect Immediate Results
Whether they are working on improving their health or getting a new business off the ground, mentally strong people don’t expect immediate results.
They apply their skills and time to the best of their ability and understand that change takes time.
They have confidence and a strong belief that they will succeed, even if it’s not right away.
Mental strength isn’t just about trying out some habits and declaring that you’re tough. It’s about incorporating strategies into your day-to-day life, seeing what works for you, and persisting until you get results.
Remember, you can use your “bad habits” like being stubborn, to a positive. Be stubborn with your goals and flexible with how you get there.
It’s important to not let your ego get in the way.
It doesn’t matter the road you take, as long as you get to your destination.
Which of the following strategies can you start using today? – Let us know in the comments
- Replace self-pity with gratitude.
- Protect your power by forgiving others.
- Embrace change rather than shying away from it.
- Focus on things you can control rather than things you can’t.
- Become comfortable with displeasing others.
- Learn to take calculated risks.
- Come to terms with your past.
- Avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
- Collaborate with other people instead of envying their success.
- Be tenacious and accept your failures.
- Embrace alone time.
- Focus on giving rather than taking.
As you begin incorporating these strategies into your life, monitor your behaviour, emotions, and thoughts to see where you are continuing to sabotage your success and happiness.
Reflect on these negative feelings or self-sabotaging tendencies and try to let them go, replacing them with more positive ones. Be persistent in this practice, and you will become truly mentally strong.
Of course, during these trying times, we could all use more mental strength during the current COVID pandemic.
If you or someone you know is battling with all the change, uncertainty and loss, we recommend:
- Labelling and naming your feelings.
- Asking yourself: what am I anxious about?
- Thinking about what you can do problem solve. What is the positive spin you can put on it?
- Avoiding ruminating. When you find yourself doing this, argue the opposite with yourself. You can learn how to control your thoughts.
- Questions you can ask
- Is this true?
- Can You Absolutely Know It’s True?
- How Do You React? What Happens When You Believe That Thought?
- Who Would You Be Without The Thought?