1. Force yourself to feel discomfort daily
“We all understand the benefits of discomfort when it comes to working out—no pain, no gain—but if you really want to make yourself mentally tougher, you need to step it up,” says Chris Friesen, Ph.D., an Ontario-based sport and performance neuropsychologist and author of ACHIEVE: Find Out Who You Are, What You Really Want, And How To Make It Happen. Trade the weight room for a yoga class, sit in the sauna if you hate being hot, sign up to tackle a public speech at this year’s alumni event.
Of course, your brain will inevitably start kicking and screaming in resistance. “Psychologists call this ‘Fortune Telling’—our predictions about how bad things are going to be or how hard things will be are often distorted or exaggerated,” he explains. Our brains evolve to avoid pain, but the built-in protection works so well that it sometimes causes us to think and act irrationally, he explains. “The best ‘cure’ for this type of distorted thinking is to say, ‘Thanks for doing what you were programmed to do, brain,’ and do it anyway. It builds self-confidence and self-efficacy, and serves to reduce the power your negative predictions and thoughts have over you,” he adds. By doing hard things every day, you will repeatedly show yourself that you are more than your momentary thoughts and feelings.
Friesen’s favorite way to get uncomfortable: take cold showers. It’s a super-easy way to force yourself into discomfort, and a guarantee scenario for your resistance to rear its head. Turn the water cold for the last 60 seconds of your daily wash or run the whole thing cold, but do the same thing every day for a week. The point is to push your threshold from wherever it’s at now in a controlled, measurable way. You’ll see that after a few days it gets easier.
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