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6 Science-Based Hacks To Grow A Stronger Mind

6 Science-Based Hacks To Grow A Stronger Mind
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Mentally strong people know that the only things we can control in life are our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and that everything else is outside of their control. Therefore, they focus on learning about and improving their thought, feeling, and behavior patterns. They know that success in life will follow.

I wish I was taught that in school! It  I was a real go-getter, trying to get ahead in life. Yet I was putting in so much unneeded effort because I was working hard, not smart. Worse than that, I was sabotaging myself, as I wasn’t listening to my own emotions and what I really needed in life. While I was doing alright in my career, internally I was anxious and depressed, and didn’t know how to fix it.

The solution came from finding out about science-based strategies for growing mentally stronger. I learned to be aware of and improve the only things I can control in life – my thought, feeling, and behavior patterns. I grew much happier and mentally healthier, and gained much more success in my career than I had previously. I also became passionate about sharing these science-based strategies, and hope you can benefit from learning about them.

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Be intentional

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    Knowledge is power! Be intentional and figure out the truth about your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I remember how I journaled about all aspects of myself, a science-based strategy for self-understanding. It wasn’t easy, and I noticed myself flinching away from certain aspects of the truth about myself. However I knew that the things I tried to flinch away from, the truths I didn’t want to acknowledge to myself, were most likely to be the ones that sabotaged my ability to control my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the long run. It was so worth it, as I discovered so many aspects of myself I didn’t know I had! This self-understanding was the key to gaining control over my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and I continue to journal daily in order to keep on learning about and improving them.

    Understand Your Emotional Self

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    Autopilot vs Intentional System: Elephant and Rider

      Intuitively, we feel our mind to be a cohesive whole, and perceive ourselves as intentional and rational thinkers. Yet research shows that in reality, the intentional part of our mind is like a little rider on top of a huge elephant of emotions. The emotional self is the most important one to explore, as it shapes our thoughts and behaviors in ways we don’t realize. For example, I learned that I had a strong anxiety response when people don’t respond to my emails quickly, and my mind started to spin in circles, figuring out what was wrong. By learning about that unhealthy pattern, I managed to start to notice and control it, and now am much better with emails.

      Self-Empathy, Self-Love, and Self-Care

      what is self esteem

        Mentally strong people take the time for self-empathy and self-care. They listen to their emotional self, and make it feel heard, validated, and loved, thus providing themselves with self-empathy and self-love. They also take the time for appropriate self-care, knowing that if they take care of themselves, they will have capacity to control their thought, feeling, and behavior patterns, and thus succeed in life. This was a particularly tough area for me, as my emotional self does not intuitively place a high importance on myself. I had to convince myself that by taking good care of myself, I can take better care of others in my life, just like in airplanes, you need to put your own mask on first before taking care of others.

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        Be Authentic

        women-walking-throug-door-200x300

          Be authentic in who you are! Mentally strong people let people in their lives know about themselves and their needs, goals, and challenges. When I came out of the closet about my mental illness to people around me, I lost some relationships. However, I was much better off overall, as it would not have been good for me in the long term to keep relationships with people who did not support me. In return, I had much better support from the large majority of people who remained close to me because they knew about my challenges. I also gained new friends who were proud of and admired my decision to be authentic about who I am.

          Life the Life You Want

          Young businesswoman walking along a cobbled street in front of a white wall.
            Young businesswoman walking along a cobbled street in front of a white wall.

            To grow mentally stronger, be confident that you know best what is good for your life. Listen to advice from others, consider their perspectives, and then make your own choices. I had a tough time making a choice about my career, as I got pushback from my parents about my decision. They wanted me to pursue a career that would make money, but I wanted to pursue my passion. Well, I’m so glad that I made the choice that was right for me, and did not follow their advice. I would have been miserable, as I am really not suited for a traditional nine-to-five track.

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            Commit to Growing Mentally Stronger

            Growing Mentally Stronger T-shirt

              Perhaps most important of all, mentally strong people are committed always to growing mentally stronger. They use research-based strategies such as making a plan to improve their thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns and set physical reminders for themselves, such as t-shirts that say “Growing Mentally Stronger.” I got that t-shirt, and made a plan. I now devote more than ten percent of my weekly activities to growing mentally stronger, such as by doing meditation, journaling, reading Lifehack and Less Wrong, and attending a Rationality Dojo.

              I hope these science-based hacks help you grow mentally stronger!

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              Photo Credit: Understand Your Emotional Self, Commit to Growing Mentally StrongerBe intentional,Self-EmpathyBe Authentic, Life the Life You Want

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              Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

              Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

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              Last Updated on July 20, 2021

              How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

              How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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              You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

              Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

              Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

              Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

              1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

              According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

              “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

              Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

              Warming up

              If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

              If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

              Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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              1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
              2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
              3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

              Stay hydrated

              Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

              To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

              Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

              Meditate

              Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

              Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

              Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

              Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

              2. Focus on your goal

              One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

              Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

              Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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              Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

              If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

              3. Convert negativity to positivity

              There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

              ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

              It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

              Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

              Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

              Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

              4. Understand your content

              Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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              However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

              “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

              Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

              Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

              One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

              5. Practice makes perfect

              Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

              In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

              Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

              6. Be authentic

              There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

              Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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              Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

              To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

              With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

              Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

              7. Post speech evaluation

              Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

              Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

              We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

              You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

              Improve your next speech

              As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

              Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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              • How did I do?
              • Are there any areas for improvement?
              • Did I sound or look stressed?
              • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
              • Was I saying “um” too often?
              • How was the flow of the speech?

              Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

              If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

              Reference

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