Improve Your Mental Strength

Ever wondered why some people seem to bounce back effortlessly from life’s curveballs while others struggle to regain their footing? The secret lies in mental strength – that intangible power to recover from adversity, rise above setbacks, and embrace challenges head-on.

What is Mental Strength?

Mental strength, or mental resilience is the emotional ability of being able to recover from adversity.

  • Mentally resilient people often transcend hard times despite seemingly impossible setbacks.
  • Mental resilience is correlated with emotional maturity and the ability to see reality clearly.
  • Mental resilience is negatively correlated with psychopathology and emotional immaturity.

Promoting Mental Strength

Just like sculpting those biceps at the gym, mental strength demands discipline, commitment, and time.  Let’s take look at the habits of mentally strong people:

1. They Don’t Compare Themselves With Others Scrolling through social media can trigger the comparison game, but mentally strong people know that every moment spent comparing is a moment lost on personal growth. External opinions don’t define them. Mentally strong people build their self-belief, immune to criticism or rejection.

2. They Don’t Strive for Perfection Perfectionism, the sneaky stress inducer, is a no-go zone. Set high standards, but don’t let the pursuit of perfection impair your performance because just like Father Christmas, it doesn’t exist.

3. They Embrace Vulnerability Game faces have their time and place, but mentally strong people recognise that asking for help and showing vulnerability are signs of strength, not weakness.

4. They Don’t Let Self-Doubt Stop Them Your brain might whisper doubts, but mentally strong women don’t let self-doubt be the roadblock to their goals. They know the brain tends to underestimate their capabilities.

5. Ditch Rumination Ruminating over every detail is a mental energy drain. Instead, focus on problem-solving and productive action, freeing up your mind for what truly matters.

6. Putting the Big Girl Pants On Avoiding challenges keeps you stuck. Mentally strong people face fears head-on, one step at a time, building confidence along the way. Whether someone told you that you’d never amount to anything, or you got turned down for a promotion, other people can limit your potential if you let them. Your brain might sometimes try to convince you that you’re not good enough, capable enough, or smart enough. But don’t believe everything you think. Your brain will underestimate you. Build belief in yourself, and you won’t let criticism or rejection stop you.

7. Find The Strength Within Strong people find ways to pull on inner strength to build themselves up. They have no need to pull others down in order to achieve this. Genuine cheerleading is the true path to success. Putting others down is a short-lived boost; uplifting others creates a lasting impact.

8. Take Responsibility For yourself. Accepting responsibility is crucial, but toxic self-blame hinders progress. Learn from mistakes and grow, without labelling yourself negatively. While it’s important to accept personal responsibility when you make a mistake, toxic self-blame does more harm than good so it’s also wise to avoid it. Saying “I made a bad choice” is much more productive than thinking “I am a bad person.”

9. Sing Your Own Praises No need to downplay achievements. Mentally strong people gracefully accept compliments, owning their success without fear of appearing arrogant.


Image by gibbysocks from Pixabay

Dopamining – Chasing the High

What is Dopamine?

Dopamine is one of the brain’s “feel good” neurotransmitters. It induces feelings of excitement, motivation, aliveness and gratification. When we engage in certain behaviours, dopamine is released from where it is produced in the brain and enters our bloodstream to give us a feeling of satisfaction and reward.

Why Do We Need It?

From an evolutionary perspective, a release of dopamine is what incentivises us to do the things that are good for our survival, like eating, drinking and reproducing. Human beings are hard-wired to be reward-seeking and a healthy level of dopamine makes us feel happy, focused, alert and motivated.


It may be a word right out of an urban dictionary, but the concept of “dopamining” is being increasingly used to describe the thrill of doing things that lead to a release of dopamine.

So Is Dopamine Addictive?

Dopamine itself is not addictive, but the feeling we get when we experience a flood of dopamine lights up the reward centres of the brain and compels us to want it more. The strong memory of the pleasure we felt as a result of a dopamine release is what we are focusing on and what we continue to seek.

Excessive repeated releases of dopamine can also over-stimulate our brain. In small doses this isn’t unhealthy, but arguably, some of the reward-seeking behaviours are what can be define as unhealthy and this is where things get complex.

Our iPhones for example, are like mini dopamine factories – pumping out little highs with each pick up. Modern phones have been designed with reward-seeking behaviour in mind and you just have to watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix to understand the magnitude of the problem. While it is not the phone itself that is addictive, the plethora of social media sites and apps is what has given us a positively endless supply of social stimuli in the thumbs up, likes, happy faces or messages that we receive. And, it’s not just the positive reactions we seek, it may be the negative reactions too. It can rapidly become a case of posting anything, even posting those things we know are just ideal to set us up for an online roasting because all we’re after is a response. Neuroscientists have shown that these positive and negative social stimuli activate the same neural reward pathways in the brain as a hit of cocaine would give us.

Being ‘addicted to your phone’ is just one example of how this can work. Other activities such as playing video games, drinking alcohol or infidelity can all behaviours that are based on this same reward system.

Where It Can Go Wrong

Regularly chasing a dopamine high off the back of an unhealthy behaviour can have serious implications for many areas of our life. Studies have shown there is a link between dopamine and compulsive behaviours and at an extreme level, continued and excessive dopamine hits can result in damage to the brain. Brain pathways are altered and the brain gets used to a new level of dopamine tolerance meaning that we are less sensitive to its impact. As we no longer get the same high, we may be compelled to seek increasingly unhealthy behaviours to achieve the same feeling. In the instance of alcohol use, this may look like drinking more and more. Even low dose alcohol is known to increase the release of dopamine.

In the case of infidelity, the brain’s self-control centre short-circuits and you may someone escalate from emotionally cheating to repeated infidelities or even engaging in risky sexual deviances. The thrill of the chase can be so intense it can sometimes look like a sex addiction (but that’s another blog post altogether). It’s not the sex that someone is addicted to though, it’s the dopamine release they are seeking and the sexual activity, or the chase at least, is just a way to obtain the dopamine rush.

Ultimately, the downfall is when it leads to poor impulse control and someone finds it impossible to resist certain behaviours. Instances of “It was just one more drink….” or relationships plagued by an incessant wave of infidelities rationalised as “just sexual banter” can lead to chronic problems in maintaining self-control that ends up costing someone dearly. Not only is there an impact to oneself in increases in stress, anxiety and depression and poor sleep quality, there is also collateral damage experienced in disruptions to personal relationships or in strained or dysfunctional family dynamics.

When To Get Help

If poor impulse control is something you recognise in yourself or in someone close, get help. There is work that can be done around identifying triggers and changing patterns in thinking, feeling and behaviour. Find a therapist you can talk to and one you feel you can work well with. Therapy can help improve levels of self-control and support someone in developing healthier coping strategies.


Photo (social media) by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash

Photo (heart) by Marah Bashir on Unsplash

How Mindfulness Can Complement Your Psychotherapy


Mindfulness and Psychotherapy have a huge amount in common and when combined, the therapeutic benefits can be very powerful.

So what exactly is Mindfulness and how can it help with psychotherapy sessions?

Mindfulness, in my opinion, is no longer a new buzzword. It’s not a dazzling new “thing to do” but a powerful activity and way of life that is, to some extent, familiar to many. Whether you practice already, have flirted with the odd meditation here and there or have just heard it but not yet looked in to it, the concept of Mindfulness has reached quite far.

For those of us who have heard of it but not yet looked in to what it may involve or how it can help us, a common question is “Mindfulness? That’s about meditation right?”. And yes, those people would be correct. There may be meditative elements to Mindfulness BUT it is so much more…….

In this blog post I shall attempt to offer my view of what Mindfulness is to me and how I believe it can complement your psychotherapy sessions.

Mindfulness: More Than A Good Idea

Imagine there was a pill you could take on a daily basis to improve your concentration, increase your awareness, improve your outlook on personal relationships and reduce your general levels of stress.

You’d take it right?

If it was this simple then it seems like a no-brainer. While this may seem like wishful thinking, the practice of Mindfulness really is as simple as doing something on a regular basis. It is a way of strengthening parts of our brain in such an incremental and beneficial way. There is scientific evidence to prove that the act of controlled breathing learned through Mindfulness has a neurophysiological effect. As read in Medical News Today, even 25 minutes of Mindfulness can improve brain function and boost energy levels.

So what else can Mindfulness help with?

All too often we may get in the car to go do our usual food shop on a Thursday morning, arrive at the supermarket and not really have any strong memories about the drive we’ve just done. How many times can we say we’re not paying attention? For many people this is pretty standard and happens a lot. But in doing so we are missing out on being in the moment. We are missing out on noticing and being curious to ourselves and our world around us. We are not acknowledging the annoyance at stubbing our toe and we are inadvertently carrying that annoyance with us til we get a chance to blurt it out at another time. Acting mindfully supports us to recognise at the moment of stubbing our toe we are annoyed and to pay attention and notice that has happened. This seemingly simple act of noticing on a regular basis will support brain function and strengthen neurological pathways.

A straightforward way to explain how Mindfulness can help us is to say that it is a fundamental life skill and involves the human ability to be fully present. It helps us to be more aware of where we are, what we are doing and supports us to be able to respond appropriately at any given moment. It is a skill that helps us to see that getting really annoyed after we stub our toe does not then make it ok to take our annoyance out on the next person we speak to. Mindfulness supports us to react appropriately to the next person we speak to and to notice that we are also annoyed that we stubbed our toe. The ability to separate experiences, emotions and to react in an appropriate way on a moment to moment basis is an amazing life skill.

Mindfulness and Curiosity

When we practice mindfulness we bring a sense of curiosity to our experience as it unfolds, moment by moment. We observe and pay attention to what is happening in our minds and bodies, becoming more present and available to ourselves and to others. We are also bringing all parts of our brain together in an integrated way that promotes and facilitates positive well being.

In this way, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy are inextricably linked.

Mindfulness and Psychotherapy

In psychotherapy a person has the chance to make sense of what is going on for them. Mindfulness trains our brain to be more aware of what is going on around us. When we have an increased capacity to be more present, we worry less about the past and are less anxious about the future. Mindfulness teaches us to be curious about the present and to be compassionate and warm towards it. The process of cultivating moment to moment awareness has such amazing restorative benefits. It is proven to help with many psychological difficulties such as depress, anxiety, stress, substance-abuse etc. The curative process transcends diagnosis and is a key component of successful psychotherapy.

Mindfulness is becoming recognised as a powerful tool in psychotherapy, and there are a growing number of therapists who are trained in both modalities. “Mindfulness-Based Transactional Analysis” also known as MBTA, is one such area of growth. MBTA is an approach that takes into account Mindfulness meditations with the theoretical concepts of Transactional Analysis.

Many people are seeing positive results when the two approaches are combined. In as far back as 2007, in a survey of 2,600 therapists, 41.4 percent of respondents reported they were practicing some form of “mindfulness therapy” with their clients.

Within my practice I may often incorporate aspects of Mindfulness. I work with clients to explore options for bringing Mindfulness into daily life outside the therapy room. If you are interested in finding out more get in touch for a chance to talk more about how I work and to find out more about Mindfulness and Transactional Analysis Psychotherapy.

Next week’s blog post focuses on reasons Psychotherapy and Mindfulness work well together.