5 science-backed habits that can dramatically improve your mental strength

Elle Kaplan, Contributor
John Medina/Getty Images

We are are living in an imperfect world where failure and struggle happen to the best of us. In fact, if you're doing great things, you're likely to face more challenges than ever.

So how can you overcome adversities to create success? The answer is mental toughness. It's been scientifically proven that anyone can develop grit, which can greatly increase one's chances of success in life. Highly successful people learn how to use this mental toughness to their advantage in any situation. Even athletes and Navy SEALs harness mental strength to get through the most extreme of conditions.

However, as with anything, it takes effort to develop this strength and make it part of your routine. To help you develop ultimate mental toughness, here are some science-backed tips on how to incorporate it into your life:

Thirteen things mentally strong parents don't do
Thirteen things mentally strong parents don't do

Fuel your purpose

"Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you," said Oprah Winfrey.

When life hands you lemons, reignite your mental power by stirring up your passion. For instance, when I'm going through a hectic week, I reflect on why I started my company. When I rekindle my passion for helping others financially, even the most difficult tasks seem like a breeze. Whatever your mission is, you should also step back, reflect and use it to fuel your progress.

Manipulate your environment

"The path to success is to take massive, determined action," said Tony Robbins.

An easy solution to build your mental power is to tweak your everyday environment. According to research, if you want to adopt a change in behavior, you simply have to lower what's known as the "activation energy" needed for it, while raising it for the ones you want to avoid. Quite simply, you want to make it easier to do positive habits and harder to do bad ones.

For example, to hit your financial goals, instead of filling your wallet with tempting credit cards, opt to leave them behind and just bring budgeted cash. It subconsciously teaches your mind to give up unnecessary spending, and ultimately empowers your mental toughness over temptations.

Don't 'power through it'

We tend to think that mentally strong people "power through it all" by avoiding rest and working 24/7.

Over the long-term, the exact opposite holds true. As Shawn Achor said, "Resilience is how you recharge, not how you endure."

Staying up late and avoiding relaxation has an incredibly negative effect on your brain power. You're at increased risk for succumbing to impulsive desires, inattentiveness and questionable decision-making, amongst other effects.

To gain mental strength, know when to put down your phone or turn off your laptop, and prioritize the much-needed recuperation of your body and mind.

Memorize anything with ease using this technique from USA Memory champion Nelson Dellis
Memorize anything with ease using this technique from USA Memory champion Nelson Dellis

Practice delayed gratification

In the classic "marshmallow test," it was proven that people who had the capability to delay gratification attained higher success levels than those who could not overcome their immediate desires.

This might seem like a tall order, but the discomfort it brings establishes mental toughness that enables you to reap bigger rewards in the future. Start using this habit by accepting that you cannot always give in to things that make you feel better in that moment, especially if they aren't aligned with your long-term plans.

For example, in the world of finance, many investors fail because of their inability to delay gratification. For your investments to compound, you must stand by your long-term strategies and not be stirred by emotional tendencies.

Surround yourself with positive energy

"Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher," said Oprah Winfrey.

According to research, networking is an important predictor of career success. And striving to expand your network with inspirational people is a great stepping stone for improving your mental strength.

Emotions are contagious. Surrounding yourself with the right people can boost your positivity and motivation. Additionally, success stories can inspire you to work harder and challenge you to become better at what you do.

Skills can only take you so far without the grit, determination and mental willpower to tackle anything life throws at you. Start developing your mental strength today and you'll be amazed at how far you eventually go.

Elle Kaplan is the founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City serving high-net-worth individuals. She is also the Chief Investment Officer at LexION Alpha, her systematic hedge fund. It is one of the only women-owned and run hedge funds in the nation.

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