As a trained therapist, Amy Morin’s focus has always been on helping others become mentally healthy people. Still, when she was hit with one devastating tragedy after another, she learned about mental strength first hand.
With the sudden deaths of her mother and husband, Morin became acutely aware of how she needed to practice what she taught. She knew she had to experience the pain while also working to heal. Rather than becoming stuck in negative emotions, she looked for ways to create and rebuild her life.
When Morin’s father-in-law was terminally-diagnosed with cancer, she felt the pangs of staggering loss all over again. It was at this point she sat down and wrote her list of “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” The list, now an international bestseller, was made up of habits she had struggled to avoid while working through her grief and pain. They were the things she had come to recognize as stumbling blocks to her healing, something she had learned would keep her from being mentally strong.
Mentally Strong Truths
According to Morin, being mentally strong isn’t about avoiding emotions, but understanding the way your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all woven together. It’s about intentionally choosing how we want to respond based on a balance of emotions and rational thinking.
With misconceptions and misinformation about what it means to be emotionally strong Morin shares her list of mentally strong truths:
•It’s about acting according to your values, not acting tough.
•It’s about interpreting the way your feelings influence your thoughts and behavior, not suppressing your emotions.
•It’s about understanding how to listen to your thoughts, not ignoring the pain.
•It’s about admitting you don’t have all the answers, and asking for help when you needed.
•It’s about making decisions to help you reach your potential, not chasing happiness.
•It’s about realistic and rational thinking, not overly positive ones.
•It’s a psychology field to helping people change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, not the latest trend.
•It’s not synonymous with mental health. You can still be mentally strong while dealing with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health problems.
While it’s easy to feel mentally healthy when everything is going well, the real test of your mental strength comes when things get hard. Developing mental strength increases our resilience to stress, the way we enjoy life, and helps us become a better person.
What You Do When You’re Mentally Strong
As I was reading Morin’s amazing story and learning about what her powerful list entailed, I was impressed to write my own list, patterned after hers. But instead of focusing on bad habits and actions to avoid, I found myself looking for the good, positive things mentally healthy people do.
1. Replace Self-pity with Gratitude
“Self-pity is easily the most destructive of non-pharmaceutical narcotics; it is addictive, gives momentary pleasure, and separates the victim from reality.” –John Gardner
2. Confident in Who You Are and the Choices You Make
“When we hate our enemies, we are giving them power over us: power over our sleep, our appetites, our blood pressure, our health, and our happiness.” –Dale Carnegie
3. Embrace Change
“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t…It’s that some people are ready to change, and others are not.” –James Gordon
4. Focus on What You Can Control
“They may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” –Maya Angelou
5. Accept What You Can’t Control
“Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.” –Lao Tzu
6. Take Calculated Risks
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you made, the better.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
7. Live in the Present
“We do not heal the past by dwelling there; we heal the past by living fully in the present.” –Marianne Williamson
8. Learn From Your Mistakes
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” –John Powell
9. Celebrates the Success of Others Instead of Comparing
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” –Nelson Mandela
10. Keep Trying
“Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” –Robert T. Kiyosaki
11. Enjoy Time Alone
“All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” –Blaise Pascal
12. Self-aware and Humble
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” –Robert Jones Burdette
13. Patient and Persistent
“Patience, persistence, and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” –Napoleon Hill
For a deeper dive into each of these habits, I’d encourage you to check out Amy Morin’s book: 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do. Each chapter is written to provide helpful tips for developing healthy mental habits. I felt connected by the stories and examples and found ways to apply what I was learning to my own life.
Don’t get stuck thinking of this as a check-list, do some self-reflecting and decide if you have room for growth in any of these areas. This life is all about learning to become a better version of ourselves, and this book has been a great tool in helping me figure out how to get there.
Take back your power, embrace change, face your fears, and train your brain for happiness and success.”