There is an interesting series of podcasts called “Nobody told me” – and one of them featured Amy Morin, who is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and
psychology professor. She is the best-selling author of three books about “13 Things” you don’t want to do to help you and your family become mentally strong, happy and successful.
Her TED talk on “The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong” has received record views – you may want to check it out.
Here are some of the highlights:
- You hear so much about resilience and what people do to become resilient – but Amy says it’s more about what people don’t do rather than what they do (like getting rid of bad habits to keep people stuck and mentally unhealthy).
- When Amy was going through adversity in her own life, she wrote a list of things not to do to maintain her sanity and published it online. This list was read by more than 50 million people which became the driver for her books. Her philosophy is staying on top of bad habits and giving them up.
- Our brain processes over 60,000 thoughts per day and we develop certain patterns. For example, if you are a negative Nelly and call yourself names, this affects how you feel and how you behave. You need to pay attention to these patterns and focus on changing them by reframing the thoughts and talking back to the negativity.
- We’re often told to live life as it was our last day but this makes us not want to plan ahead and put the focus mostly on us. Personally, I always thought this was ‘dangerous’ thinking – I get it that we want to seize the day but not planning for the future isn’t a world I want to be a part of. In my mind, the future is less about me but about the generation I will leave behind. Amy also turns this around and says that instead of living life like it’s our last day, why don’t we live life like it was someone else’s last day? We would all have more compassion.
- Remember that we all go through tough times. It’s easy to think our problems are worse than anyone else’s and that life isn’t fair. This type of thinking is a self-fulfilling prophecy and only reduces you, it doesn’t make you stronger or more resilient. You need to think that you are capable and can handle the adversity that’s coming at you. Our behaviors including the words we use on ourselves have an impact; for example, rather than think or say to yourself, ‘ugh – I have to go to work tomorrow’, why not say ‘I am lucky to have a job that I can go to tomorrow’. It’s a choice we make to be positive to ourselves.
- Don’t give other people the power to drag you down – nobody can MAKE you feel anything. One of my favorite quotes is from the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – how wonderful would it be if I can apply this to practice with ease.
- Why do people dwell on the negative? It’s because life is easier if you assume the worst as it won’t get you down when it becomes a reality. Again, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- Being optimistic isn’t seeing everything through rose colored glasses. You need to be realistic and still hopeful. For example, you cannot control whether you will get a new job but you have control on how well you will prepare for the job interview.
- Studies have shown that people feel worse after spending time on social media. Looking at other people’s happy events can make many people jealous because they don’t have all these great things going on in their own lives. The problem with social media like Facebook is that you only see a happy snapshot of one’s life. No one wants to showcase the day-to-day struggles – it’s boring. It’s important to decide what role social media plays and it should be used in moderation to connect with people in person.
- Mentally strong people DON’T resent other people’s success; being jealous takes your eyes off your own goals. It is important to note that other people have more than you do but they are not your competition.
- There are three types of destructive beliefs that are also DON’Ts: an unhealthy belief about ourselves (i.e. good things never happen to me); other people (i.e. everyone else has better luck); and about the world (i.e. I was born into the wrong family).
- Mentally strong people set aside time to be alone. Most of us have constant distractions – we need at least 15 minutes to unplug from technology and just think – this could be journaling, sitting quietly, meditating or closing your eyes and thinking about your goals for the next day. I found this fascinating – in a recent study where subjects were asked if they would rather sit for 15 minutes and meditate or get an electric shock, 25% of women and 75% of men chose electric shock over sitting quietly!
- In relationships, mentally strong people take responsibility for their feelings and behaviors without blaming the other person. They recognize how another person’s choice can affect them but also understand that they don’t need someone to be complete. They are okay by themselves so accept that the other person is not solely responsible for their happiness.
- In her book about parenting, Amy guides parents to not promote a victim mentality and not allow kids to feel sorry for themselves.
- Kids should understand and learn disappointment and rejection but should be taught to handle it, not avoid it.
- I thought this was a depressing study: A study of college students indicated that 60% of the kids lacked the emotional skills to be out on their own.
- Amy wrote an article for Inc. based on a study published by the American Journal of Public Health which indicated that a child’s social and emotional health will determine how likely he/she will go to college vs jail. Kids that have good emotional skills will be more likely to be successful when they are 25 so it’s important to teach kids how to manage emotions: calm themselves down, cheer themselves up, handle being bored, etc. We need to teach kids not to escape their feelings.
- In summary, Amy indicated that mental muscle is like building physical muscle – you need to consistently exercise it to reach your potential.
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