Psychologist and blogger. I help people use psychology for meaningful personal growth: https://nickwignall.com

Let these bad habits go and your emotional strength will rise

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It’s a common misconception that some people are just “emotionally strong” while others are not.

And while there are of course some genetic influences on how well we handle our emotions, the much bigger influence is this:

It’s habits that determine emotional strength, especially your mental habits.

In my job as a psychologist, I work with people every day who feel emotionally weak:

  • They get caught up in bouts of worry and anxiety.
  • They fly off the handle in anger without knowing why.
  • They get lost in bouts of depression and low mood.

But often what leads to all this emotional struggle is a collection of destructive mental habits—often learned and reinforced long ago in early childhood but never unlearned. …


#1: Keep your promises to yourself

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As a psychologist, I spend a lot of time talking to people who struggle with low self-esteem. They say things like:

  • I’m very successful, but it never feels like enough.
  • I know this is bad to say, but I just never feel worthy.

But whatever the original cause of your low self-esteem, here’s what you need to understand about it:

Self-esteem is something you can build with better habits.

Most people spend so much time trying to understand their low self-esteem, that they don’t have any energy left to build higher self-esteem.

If you want better self-esteem, focus on identifying and building consistent habits that will improve your self-esteem. Here are five pretty good ones to start with. …


#1: Manage your energy, not your time

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Becoming more productive isn’t about more productivity hacks or yet another time management framework.

In fact, those things are usually distractions from adressing the real issues with productivity. Because here’s what most people trying to be more productive miss:

True productivity is about habits, not hacks.

In particular, it’s your mental habits that will determine your ability to consistently stay focused and do your best work.

If you’re ready to get serious about becoming more productive, work to cultivate these four mental habits.

1. Manage Energy, Not Time.

Energy is the currency of motivation.

Most of the productivity and habit building advice you hear offers tips and tricks for better time management. With promises of making you more efficient in your work, they suggest all sorts of techniques and strategies for carving up and dividing your day to manage your time better. …


Let them go and mental toughness will find you.

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Like courage or happiness, mental toughness isn’t one of those things you can just get directly.

You can’t just try to be mentally tough any more than you can try to be happy. In fact, sometimes this approach can backfire: You’re trying so hard to be mentally tough that you make yourself anxious and insecure instead!

Here’s another way to think about it:

What if mental toughness comes from doing less, not more?

As a psychologist, I work with people every day who are trying to build emotional strength and mental toughness. This gives me a relatively unique insight into how becoming mentally tough actually works. …


If you want to find happiness, find yourself first

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Most people think of self-awareness as a personality trait—something you either have or don’t. But the truth is there’s a lot we can do to become more self-aware…

Self-awareness is cultivated through positive habits.

In my work as a psychologist, I’ve observed a handful of common habits and practices that are shared by truly self-aware people.

If you can learn to implement them in your own life, self-awareness won’t be far behind.

1. Get curious about your own mind

Self-aware people tend to be curious about their own minds and how they work. They often think about their thoughts and thinking patterns.

Technically, this is called meta-cognition. It means you are aware of the fact that you’re thinking things and able to assess the quality and usefulness of that thinking. …


Emulate them and watch your emotional intelligence rise

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Here’s a radical idea that shouldn’t be:

We don’t struggle with emotions because something’s wrong with us; we struggle with them because we don’t understand how they work.

Think about it:

If you were never taught how numbers work, would you be surprised that you struggled to do math?

Of course not.

And yet, even though very few of us are ever taught how emotions work, we assume something’s wrong or defective in us when we struggle to manage them!

On the other hand, when people are able to work with their painful emotions in a healthy way it’s usually a sign that they understand how emotions actually work. …


5. There’s power in letting go

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The Tao Te Ching is a classic Chinese guide to living well. Composed over 2,500 years ago by Lao-tzu, it just might offer more page-for-page insight about the human condition than almost any other text we have.

Similar in tone to Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations or Epictetus’ The Art of Living, The Tao Te Ching will force you to reflect on some of the most profound questions about the nature of reality and what it really means to achieve a life well-lived.

What follows are 10 quotes from the book on the theme of self-mastery along with a few of my own “notes to self.” …


Let them go and watch your natural confidence rise

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We all have certain areas of our lives where we’d like to feel more confident:

  • Maybe you wish you were confident enough to speak up more often at work and express yourself.
  • Maybe you want to be more confident in dating and romance.
  • Or maybe you wish you had enough confidence to finally start that new business you’ve been dreaming of.

And while everybody knows what it feels like to lack confidence, here’s the thing most people don’t realize about how confidence works:

Feeling confident is often about what you do less of, not more of.

Specifically, many of us have subtle habits in our lives that chip away at our self-confidence and add to our insecurities. …


1. Choose a goal but commit to a routine

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In this article, I’m going to show you 5 principles from psychology that will help you stick with your New Year’s goals.

These are the same ideas I use with clients in my clinical practice. And over the years, they’ve helped hundreds of clients set and stick with meaningful and realistic goals.

Okay, let’s dive in!

1. Choose a Goal but Commit to a Routine

Here’s the single most important thing you need to know when it comes to setting good New Year’s goals and actually sticking with them:

You can’t do a goal. You can do actions that eventually lead you to your goal.

Think about it…

  • You can’t just lose 20 pounds. But you can commit to not taking a second helping at dinner each night which will eventually result in losing weight. …


#2: You need to understand the origin of your anxiety

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I’m a psychologist who specializes in anxiety. And the biggest reason I see people continue to struggle with anxiety is that they don’t understand it.

More specifically:

The biggest problem for people with anxiety is usually their mistaken beliefs about the nature of anxiety itself.

If you want to finally get a handle on your anxiety, it’s important to unlearn all the popular but misguided misconceptions you’ve heard about anxiety.

Because when you misunderstand what anxiety really is and how it actually works, you end up thinking and behaving in ways that unintentionally make it worse.

In the rest of this article, I’ll walk you through four of the most common anxiety myths out there. I’ll try to explain why they’re false and then give you a better way to think about anxiety going forward. …

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