We are not doomed to be upset just because something does not turn out the way that we planned. In 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, psychologist Amy Morin discusses key steps that everyone can take to help improve their emotions, outlook, and general life satisfaction all by focusing on developing mental health. Each of Morin’s simple points is accompanied by a quote, explanation, and a few amazing stories. By internalizing the concepts in this book, the mentally strong individual will be better able to live life according to his/her values and tough it out even in the face of adversity.
If you have a serious interest in exploring and improving your mental health, then this book is definitely worth a read. The next part contains SPOILERS… kind of. I will list all of Morin’s points with a brief explanation, however, I won’t mention any of the stories that she shares. Each tale is powerful and allows the reader to gain a deeper understanding of each of the 13 ‘things.’
So, without further ado, here are the 13 things that separate a mentally strong person from the rest. Mentally strong people…
- …don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves. They don’t throw a pity party for themselves, wallow in the things that they can’t do, or think that they are weak. Instead, mentally strong people learn to exchange self-pity with gratitude by reframing their perspective. For example, in the age of the coronavirus, don’t think about all that you cannot do right now, instead think about all the wonderful opportunities you can engage in without having to leave your own home.
- …don’t give away their power. They don’t let other people and circumstance define their value, spend time complaining, or feel helpless to fix a problem. Instead, these people focus on their strengths, set healthy boundaries with people that make them feel small, and work to be proactive in addressing a problem.
- …don’t shy away from change. Without mental fortitude, change can seem too risky. However, breaking down large change into incremental steps and planning for obstacles can help make even big changes more manageable.
- … don’t waste energy on the things they can’t control. We view control in two ways—things are either under our control (ex. we get passed over for a promotion and consider whether we are not good enough for the job) or things are out of our control (ex. we get passed over for a promotion and believe it was because there were better candidates). Things are never usually 100% our own fault or 100% the fault of our environment. Finding a healthy balance between mindsets—accepting some of the blame/ praise, while realizing that other external factors may be at play—is an important mental compromise that can lead to greater life satisfaction.
- …don’t worry about pleasing everyone. People pleasing is about trying to control how other people feel. When you feel as if you are going out on a limb for everyone else, but no one is willing to make such sacrifices for you, this can lead to resentment and damage relationships. Mentally strong people know their value and will always make sure to prioritize solutions that agree with their principles before trying to bend over backwards accommodating others.
- … don’t fear taking calculated risks. Emotions can hold us back from making decisions. If we are pollyannaish, we can become foolhardy, while if we are feeling blue, we may put off making any decisions at all. Mentally strong people are calculating; they look at the benefits of risk, look at alternatives to risk, understand the rewards of risk as well as measure the consequences.
- …don’t dwell on the past. When we live in the past, we are prevented from enjoying the present. Mentally strong people remember the past but reframe their experience. Instead of remembering their sadness of their breakup at the pizza restaurant, they focus on how the slices of pepperoni were charred to a crisp and choose to remember how the song playing in the background was the anthem of their senior year of high school. In short, mentally strong people work to separate the emotional experience with the details, in this way, they can remember without being drowned in a puddle of no-good feelings.
- …don’t make the same mistakes over and over. Mentally strong people resist the urge to be stubborn; instead, they create a plan to move forward. They keep themselves accountable and practice self-discipline (i.e. try their best at tolerating personal discomfort).
- …don’t resent other people’s success. Jealousy stems from insecurity. We can’t always keep up with the Joneses. Mentally strong people spend more time focusing on themselves, ways to reach their own goals, and support others when they accomplish milestones. A rising tide raises all ships—celebration and congratulations can be a joyous opportunity for all.
- …don’t give up after the first failure. Mentally strong people have a growth mindset; they see failure as a step in the process. They practice self-compassion, meaning that they view their failures kindly and realistically, evaluate next steps, and move forward.
- …don’t fear alone time. Solitude is necessary to calm the disquiet mind. Mentally strong people engage in self-reflection as well as mindfulness. Meditation has been shown to alter brainwaves and be an effective practice to help manage depression, anxiety, and strong, negative emotions.
- …don’t feel like the world owes them anything. They don’t feel entitled (i.e. view themselves as superior and more deserving than others) to rewards, instead, they focus on how their efforts and recognize that hard work is necessary for achievement. Mentally strong people know that there is always room for improvement, and they are open to constructive criticism and acknowledgement of their flaws.
- …don’t expect immediate results. Mentally strong people do not succumb to the need for immediate gratification; they practice patience even when the path is long and the journey hard. They know that success requires setting realistic expectations, following through with an action plan, and are not tempted by shortcuts along the way.
By taking these principles to heart, you can become more skilled at regulating your emotions, exercising good judgement and decision making, as well as improving the quality of your life inside and out.
This book also included a number of examples to showcase how mental strength was used to overcome challenges. In these pages, I learned about how the cookie giant “Famous Amos” came to be, how the Hershey company acquired Reese’s Cups, as well as how Walt Disney got his creative work stolen right from under him, yet how he persevered and unleashed a cartoon empire.
Amy Morin’s book was inspiring and motivational. If you are interested in internalizing the points listed above and living a mentally healthier lifestyle, don’t rely on my list, read the book for yourself. An investment in your mental health, Dear Reader, will reap you benefits ten-fold.