9 Ancient Practices That Build Mental Toughness
Successful people often appear immune to struggle or difficult times however, it’s not that they are completely immune, mostly, they have developed the mental capacity to push through when they need to.
When you build mental toughness you cultivate the ability to weather unexpected storms. As an established or aspiring entrepreneur or writer, mental toughness is important. After all, rejection, criticism and constant setbacks are inevitable, building the mental strength to be able to navigate life will help you to achieve goals and build a fulfilling, purposeful life.
Successful people often appear immune to struggle or difficult times however, it’s not that they are completely immune, mostly, they have developed the mental capacity to push through when they need to. The fundamental behavioural patterns and habits that lead to productivity, discipline, intuition, innovation and high achievement are often rooted in ancient practices or belief systems such as Stoicism, Islam and Buddhism.
The practices mentioned here may help you to become more disciplined, focused and productive. I have personally tried all of these practices and I incorporate some of them into my everyday routine.
1.Breathe with Intention
Every second of the day we breathe therefore, we often forget the importance of breath. The simple practice of inhaling and exhaling with intention can change the way you think and feel. Slow, controlled, deep breathes reduce anxiety, release stress and helps you to remain focused and calm.
Ancient Chinese, Indian and Native American medicine all place a huge emphasis on breathing techniques. The essential foundation of meditation and yoga is the “breath.” Therefore, whenever you feel anxious, angry or overwhelmed, take a moment to breathe.
2. Positive Thinking
One of the first personal development books I ever read was the Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. My dad gave it to me when I was nine years old, I fully immersed myself in the ideas and methods in the book. Peale talks about replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, as soon as negative thoughts bubble to the surface. I tried and it worked, I don’t practice positive thinking all the time but I try to live an optimistic life.
Ancient warriors like Sun Tzu and prophets such as David and Moses endured unimaginable calamities but they held on to their faith. Positive thinking is faith, belief, unwavering hope.
“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”- Sun Tzu-
The ability to remain positive and look at things from a positive standpoint allows you to see the opportunities that are hidden in challenging situations.
Children are the true masters of visualization, they draw their ideal world and they constantly imagine what they want their lives to be like. The ancient practice of meditation can be used as a visualization tool as well as a relaxation and mindfulness tool. When you meditate, visualize the outcome, see it in your mind's eye, focus on it to gain the clarity you need to make it a reality.
4. Be Bold
Taking bold and decisive action will help you to build the mental toughness that you need to achieve massive success. It is not always easy to make bold decisions but they will always be better than indecisiveness, hesitation and inaction.
Sun Tzu and The Spartans for example, took bold decisions and they placed great emphasis on acting boldly and triumphantly. Instead of cowering in the corner and hoping for the best, make a stand, be bold and act like the boss that you are!
5. Take Cold Showers
I did a seven-day challenge where I took cold showers every morning. It was horrible! I hated every minute of it however, I have to admit, I felt like a warrior once the shower was over. Coldwater shocks your system and all you want to do is run away from it. However, forcing yourself to stay under the cold water cultivates discipline, focus and mental toughness.
There are also scientific reasons why taking cold showers is a good idea. Here are some of the benefits of taking cold showers:
-Helps with metabolism
-Supports the immune system
Taking cold showers in the morning wakes you up and boosts your energy levels. There is a reason why warm baths or showers before bedtime make you feel relaxed and ready to hit the sack. Warm water turns on the parasympathetic nervous system, which makes you feel sleepy. Therefore, if you want to feel energetic and vibrant in the morning and ready to crush the day, take a cold shower.
6. Wake up Early
Early mornings are the norm for me because as a Muslim I have to be up in time to pray Fajr, which is the first prayer of the day. I am normally awake at around 4 am. I am more productive, happier, less anxious and more focused when I wake up early. 7 am is always too late for me, forcing yourself to wake up early builds discipline and mental toughness.
“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth and wisdom.” — Aristotle-
“Fasting is our greatest remedy — the physician within.” Paracelsus-
Fasting is an ancient practice that has been used throughout the ages for spiritual growth, discipline, focus and mental strength. It also has tremendous health benefits.
Muslims fast during Ramadan and some even fast on a weekly basis. Buddhists and Christians also use fasting as a spiritual growth tool.
Practice fasting once a week or whenever you feel the need to. I pracice intermittent fasting on most days and I fast from sunrise to sundown on Mondays.
8. Be Grateful
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not but rejoices fort hose which he has” -Epictetus-
Practice gratitude, be thankful for what you already have and think less of the things that you don’t have. No matter how bleak your situation is, if you dig deep you find the silver lining in every cloud.
I practice gratitude by writing down three things that I am grateful for every single day. Gratitude allows you to focus on the here and now, to be present in the moment, to be more mindful. Intentional gratitude reduces stress, improves your mood and helps you stay grounded.
Find your own way of being thankful, but just remember that gratitude is one of the major keys to developing mental toughness and living a fulfilling and purposeful life.
9.Take Power Naps
Never underestimate the power of taking a nap. Albert Einstein, John Dewey and Thomas Edison all took power naps and they said their moments of perceptive clarity took place when they were taking a nap or half asleep.
Short, power naps reenergize the brain and body when you read something, for example, your brain deciphers the information in your sleep. This is when your brain actively works to reinforce the things that you have learned throughout the day. Sometimes anxiety stems from exhaustion and burnout. Taking a nap will reduce stress, anxiety and it will strengthen your ability to solve problems.
Mental toughness is crucial if you want to build a successful, fulfilling, purposeful life. There will be peaks and troughs along the way and without mental toughness, life will feel like a constant uphill battle. To develop mental toughness include these ancient practices into your day to day routine:
-Breathe with intention
-Take cold showers
-Wake up early