Imagine a man who is starting a new job. He feels socially awkward and nervous, so he avoids chatting with his new co-workers. As the weeks drag on, fewer people try to chat with him when he passes them in the hallway. As a result, he thinks to himself, “I must be socially awkward.” This makes him even more avoidant of his coworkers and makes his co-workers even less friendly to ward him.
Have negative thoughts ever sabotaged your success or happiness? Most people have bad mental habits that drag them down like weights. And even if you are doing just fine, improving your mental habits will help you live up to your potential and be more resilient to future stress.
In this article, you will learn 13 ways to upgrade common mental habits. By the end, 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.
Mastering these habits is like building a muscle: It takes concentration and practice, but if you put in the work, you’ll get closer to being your best self, whatever your circumstances might be.
1Replace Self-Pity With Gratitude
One day, Jack broke both his legs when he was hit by a school bus. In the weeks that followed, his frantic mother kept talking about the “horrible incident” and warned that his legs might never fully heal, even though the doctors had predicted a full recovery. Jack became irritable and sad. His mother, worried about the traumatic impact of the “horrible incident,” took him to a therapist.
Rather than pitying Jack, the therapist joked about Jack’s wild experience and helped him write a funny story called How to Beat a School Bus. Most importantly, he told Jack’s mother to focus on being grateful that Jack was alive. Before long, Jack was upbeat and cheery, and eventually he made a full recovery.
Long-distance runner Marla Runyan, who ran the New York City Marathon in just over two hours, has a master’s degree and is a bestselling author. She’s also legally blind. When Marla was 9, she was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, which caused her eyesight to quickly deteriorate. But she developed a passion for running and went on to set world records at the 1992 and 1995 Paralympics. Runyan’s secret recipe for success was seeing her illness as an opportunity to become a world-class athlete rather than an unfair setback. This mindset enabled her to create an amazing career and inspire mil-lions of people.
No matter who you are, you will experience sorrow and pain. Although sadness is a healthy emotion, rumination and self-pity are destructive. Jack’s and Marla’s stories illustrate that by being grateful, you can overcome just about anything. Whether you keep a gratitude journal or regularly take a few moments to think about how lucky you are, find a practice that helps you focus on what you have rather than what you don’t. 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.