Mental Health and Mental Strength
Mental strength and mental health are sometimes used interchangeably but they're not the same thing. The easiest way to compare mental health and mental strength is by comparing the differences between physical health and physical strength: physical strength may indeed be improved by building bigger muscles, but bigger muscles don’t always mean that you’ll never have to deal with a physical health issue, such as high cholesterol. A physical health issue may indeed make it slightly more difficult to go and work out at the gym, however, you can still choose those options that will help your physical strength, even if you have a physical health issue.
Exercises undertaken to grow your mental strength will also strengthen your mental health, and increased mental health makes it easier to increase mental strength.
Difference between mental health and mental strength:
What is mental strength?
Mental Strength is the capacity of an individual to deal effectively with stressors, pressures and challenges and perform to the best of their ability, irrespective of the circumstances in which they find themselves (Clough, 2002). Building mental strength is fundamental to living your best life.
Mental strength has three parts:
Thinking: It involves the ability to think realistically. That means knowing how to recognize irrational thoughts and replace them with a more realistic inner dialogue. It’s also about speaking to yourself with kindness. So when you’re tempted to be overly critical of yourself, mental strength allows you to respond with self-compassion.
Feeling: Mental strength doesn’t involve suppressing your emotions or denying your pain. Instead, it’s about acknowledging how you feel. Sometimes, it means accepting an uncomfortable emotion or even calming yourself down before having a tough conversation.
Doing: Mental strength is about taking productive action. That means working out even when you’re tired or it means allowing yourself to engage in self-care, it involves ensuring that your behavior is good for you.
How to Build Mental Strength
Fortunately, everyone has the ability to build mental strength. Developing bigger mental muscles takes exercise—just like developing bigger physical muscles. Building mental strength may, in turn, also improve your mental health.
There are many exercises that can help you build mental strength, here are a few.
Cognitive exercises are those strategies that help you think differently. This could include any exercise that helps you think more positively, reframe negative thoughts, or develop a more realistic mindset. Here are some examples of healthy cognitive exercises:
Write in a gratitude journal: Gratitude journals are an excellent way to activate and strengthen positive thoughts and feelings.
Talk to yourself like a trusted friend: People are often harder on themselves than they are on their friends. So, try to show yourself the same compassion you would extend to a loved one.
Argue the opposite: The moment you're convinced everything will go wrong, think of everything that could go right.
Emotional exercises increase your self-awareness of your emotional state. They may help you recognize when your emotions are helpful or not helpful, they may assist you in identifying strategies that reduce the intensity of your feelings, or they may help you embrace uncomfortable feelings. Here are some examples of emotional exercises:
Label your feelings: Noticing your feelings as feelings can help you get some distance from them. This can help you think more logically and get a better perspective on the problems or emotions you're dealing with.
Use healthy coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions: Instead of only focusing on negative emotions, you can take a walk, give yourself a pep talk, or read a book you enjoy. This isn't an attempt to avoid or ignore your feelings, but it can help to alleviate some of your painful emotions.
Take deep breaths: Deep breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety and alleviate tension in your body and mind.
Behavioral exercises are about getting up and doing things that are good for you. These actions help you feel better and perform at your peak. Some examples of behavioral exercises include:
Perform behavioral experiments: Behavioral experiments help to challenge any thoughts that are unproductive and self-limiting.
Schedule positive activities: It always helps your mental well-being to make time for things that bring you joy. Schedule a warm bath before bed or carve out some time to cook a nice meal for yourself.
Engage in hobbies: Hobbies will engage your mind in something that you love to do. Whether it's taking pictures or baking, hobbies can bring a sense of accomplishment that can help you feel good about yourself.
What is mental health?
Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood and aging.
Why is mental health important?
Mental health is important because it can help you to:
Cope with the stresses of life
Be physically healthy
Have good relationships
Make meaningful contributions to your community
Realize your full potential
How can I improve my mental health?
There are many different things you can do to improve your mental health, including:
Staying positive. It's important to try to have a positive outlook; some ways to do that include
Finding a balance between positive and negative emotions. Staying positive doesn't mean that you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger. You need to feel them so that you can move through difficult situations. They can help you to respond to a problem. But you don't want those emotions to take over. Trying to hold on to the positive emotions when you have them
Practicing gratitude, which means being thankful for the good things in your life. It's helpful to do this every day, either by thinking about what you are grateful for or writing it down in a journal. These can be big things, such as the support you have from loved ones, or little things, such as enjoying a nice meal. It's important to allow yourself a moment to enjoy the positive experience. Practicing gratitude can help you to see your life differently.
Take care of your physical health, since your physical and mental health are connected. Some ways to take care of your physical health include
Getting enough sleep. Sleep affects your mood. If you don't get a good sleep, you may become more easily annoyed and angry. Over the long term, a lack of quality sleep can make you more likely to become depressed. So it's important to make sure that you have a regular sleep schedule and get enough quality sleep every night.
Healthy eating. Good nutrition will help you feel better physically but could also improve your mood and decrease anxiety and stress. Also, not having enough of certain nutrients may contribute to some mental illnesses.
Connecting with others. Humans are social creatures, and it's important to have strong, healthy relationships with others. Having good social support may help protect you against the harms of stress. It is also good to have different types of connections. Besides connecting with family and friends, you could find ways to get involved with your community or neighborhood. For example, you could volunteer for a local organization or join a group that is focused on a hobby you enjoy.
Developing coping skills, which are methods you use to deal with stressful situations. They may help you face a problem, take action, be flexible, and not easily give up solving it.
Meditation is a mind and body practice where you learn to focus your attention and awareness. There are many types, including mindfulness meditation and transcendental meditation. Meditation usually involves
A quiet location with as few distractions as possible
A specific, comfortable posture. This could be sitting, lying down, walking, or another position.
A focus of attention, such as a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or your breathing
Relaxation techniques are practices you do to produce your body's natural relaxation response. This slows down your breathing, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces muscle tension and stress. Types of relaxation techniques include
Self-hypnosis, where the goal is to get yourself into a relaxed, trance-like state when you hear a certain suggestion or see a specific cue
Deep breathing exercises, which involve focusing on taking slow, deep, even breaths
References: The Difference Between Mental Strength and Mental Health
By Amy Morin, LCSW Updated on October 26, 2020
How to Improve Mental Health, By Anonymous, 20th July 2022
This Blog on 'Mental Health and Mental Strength ' has been contributed by Chrisann D'souza. She is an ambitious and results-driven individual. She loves to learn about the human psyche and hopes to raise awareness about mental health, gender issues, and cruelty to animals.
She is part of the International Journal of Neurolinguistics & Gestalt Psychology, IJNGP is a peer-reviewed journal that serves as a platform for the enrichment, articulation, and support of the constantly emerging field dedicated to promoting the study and research in Neurolinguistics Gestalt Psychology, and Therapy.