Mental wellbeing depends on positive self-esteem, strong resilience and compassion for one’s own suffering. Inner strength is the mental equivalent of physical fitness. It provides the foundation for building a vital life free from worry and emotional suffering. Strengthen your mental muscle through meditation and by staying away from the useless distractions in life.
Today, the prevailing focus of mental wellness is to achieve happiness by training our minds to remain positive. Yet there are numerous scientific studies that show how positive thinking and optimism can backfire and lead to negative emotions such as anger and resentment. For example, a study on “positive” affirmations found they made people more likely to cheat in order to gain a reward.
Another study found that “positive” thinking made people less likely to accept others, and more likely to interpret their behavior in a negative way. Another study showed that positive thinking makes people high risk takers and led to the loss of jobs and savings by those who invested in the stock market. The list goes on, but the point is that pushing ourselves to stay positive all the time will cause unnecessary suffering.
The real truth is that positivity and negativity are not inherently good or bad; they both exist within us like light and dark, hot and cold. Focusing on either one exclusively is unbalanced thinking. It often sabotages our efforts to improve inner strength because our minds become caught in the battle of trying to be positive all the time.
When we are too focused on what’s right, or what’s wrong, there is no room for an open heart that experiences both sides. It’s like asking ourselves not to think about pink elephants (or any other specific thing). The more you try not to think about a pink elephant, the more that’s all you can think about.
Reality Behind Inner Strength
Inner strength training is similar. Instead of focusing on being positive or being negative, we need to practice balance by receiving the light and the dark equally. We do this through meditation practices such as practicing mindfulness and compassionate listening/self-expression.
The purpose of these practices is to help us build our inner strength. They are not intended to make us feel good or bad, they simply do what the traditional description of mindfulness says: “it sees things as they are.” As it becomes easier for us to focus on being mindful in our daily lives, positive feelings become abundant and unnecessary worries fade away.
After practicing meditation for years, I can say with certainty that this is true. But it doesn’t mean we stop trying to accomplish our goals in life, enjoying nature or appreciating what we have around us. It just means that while continuing to work on these things, we don’t get caught up in worrying about if they’re perfect or not.
It’s okay not to be okay all the time. It doesn’t mean we’re weak or unable to improve, it just means we’re human and need a little understanding sometimes. Through mindfulness and compassionate self-expression we can develop our inner strength by practicing balance in thoughts and emotions that arise from the daily challenges of life.
This is how we build true happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
Laughter yoga is a great example of this balance between positivity and negativity, light and dark. As its name describes, laughter yoga is a combination of humor and traditional yogic relaxation techniques that results in loud belly laughs. This practice has been shown to have numerous benefits for our mental wellness.
However, at first glance it may also appear to be an example of focusing on positivity or staying positive all the time. After all, laughter is generally associated with feeling good, and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. But while this practice does provide many benefits, it’s important to understand why we laugh in the first place;
Laughter is a social bonding mechanism.
Humans start to laugh when we’re about one month old and it’s how we communicate with others in the earliest stages of our lives. Even after we learn language, laughter still fills an important role in relationships. In fact, a study on relationships found that couples who laughed more together were generally happier in their relationship!
Laughter connects you with people. It is a tool that tells everyone we are open to connecting with them.
Without this communication of positivity, our relationships would suffer and we’d likely become depressed due to loneliness.
This shows us that positivity and negativity are not opposite forces in life; they need each other to exist. Positivity helped us to feel fulfilled in life. However, without these social connections, negativity can cause depression and decrease our quality of life.
The same concept is true for mindfulness meditation. When we practice mindfulness, the goal isn’t to force ourselves to always think positive or happy thoughts. It’s simply a way of becoming aware in the present moment. This way we can let go of worries and anxieties that keep us from enjoying life.
Ways To Keep Your Inner Strength Intact
I can’t tell you what to worry about. But I can give you some tips on how to handle your emotions in a way that helps build your inner strength so life’s challenges don’t get you down or overwhelm you:
- Let go of comparison. Social media makes it really easy to compare our lives with others (and their highlight reels, at that). However, what we don’t see are the many struggles and challenges people also face. When you notice yourself thinking negatively about someone else’s highlight reel. Try to redirect your thoughts toward things you’re grateful for in your own life.
- Seek out negative emotions. Everyone with anxiety or depression knows how hard it can be to experience negative emotions; we want to avoid them at all costs. It’s only when we’re able to sit with our negative emotions instead of avoiding them that they can transform. I like to ask myself this question when my anxiety is acting up: “What am I afraid of here?” Then, just simply thinking about the answer helps me feel more in control.
- Make the effort to connect with others. Laughing yoga is all about connecting with other people; it would be impossible without this social interaction.
4. When you feel negative, take a moment and send a text to someone and let them know they’re on your mind.