Marcus Aurelius, known for being a good emperor and for being a philosopher, once said that the nearer a man comes to a calm mind, the closer they are to strength.
I’m personally a fan of this way of thinking. I grew up with some bullheaded, stiff-necked people, and it made me intolerant of people that always think that they’re right and always resort to anger whenever things don’t go their way.
How exactly can we keep calm? Our mental health is as important as our physical health; they’re actually more closely related than you might think. One thing that they share as well is that they both need exercise to keep them healthy.
According to a psychotherapist, these 5 mental muscles all work together to help us be more mentally fit. These mental muscles all work together to help us “increase our emotional intelligence, respond to situations with more resilience, build stronger interpersonal relationships, and thrive in all parts of life.”
I admit, I am personally still trying real hard on this one. When I make a mistake, I find some excuse to blame the situation on instead of owning up to it.
This mental muscle functions on a more radical level, the psychotherapist wrote. Stop blaming other people and/or circumstances for how you feel or what has happened. And like I’m guilty of, own your part in the results, even while taking into account other factors.
A healthy mind is an open mind. You believe your truths, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that is the universal truth. The psychotherapist wrote that we can probe, challenge, and think of new beliefs to exercise this muscle.
To help this muscle, the expert wrote that it’s beneficial for us to adopt a collaborative lens, or the “I win when you win” approach. Don’t shut down other people’s truths. Another thing to adopt could be the possibility lens, wherein you pause for a bit, take a step back, and imagine a favorable outcome without thinking about present hindrances.
You know yourself the best. Take a moment to analyze your inner self in order to manage your emotions better and give you more control over your stress responses. Taking time for occasional mood checks is essential for this muscle.
“Let’s say you’re in a really bad mood. That’s vague. But if you have strong self-assessment muscles, you can say that you’re experiencing a combination of disappointment, anger, and anxiety and a pounding headache.”
Holding Multiple Perspectives
This kind of ties to the helpful beliefs collaborative lens. One of life’s mottos is “to each their own,” and I can associate that with this muscle. There is no one set point of view, I believe. Once you acquire the ability to see a situation in someone else’s shoes, you’re on your way to a more healthy mindset.
“Move beyond the simplicity of black/white, right/wrong, and either/or. Practice suspending judgment and embrace the complexity of gray, as well as the potential of the ‘yet-to-be-known.’”
Calming Your Physiology
Getting ahold of yourself is basically this mental muscle. The psychotherapist summarizes this as a strength to quickly change your state, both physical and mental, when feeling triggered. Again, get a hold on yourself, but do it gently. Breathing exercises are helpful for this mental muscle; there are even apps on smartwatches nowadays to help with stress and/or anxiety.
“The truth is that we can influence our own nervous systems. On the one hand, unhelpfully, we can easily intensify a catabolic state, such as “getting wound up” over something. But helpfully, we can also calm ourselves.”