Boost Wellbeing

5 important skills linked to greater physical and mental health

Many of us are looking for a simple answer or quick fix to improve our physical and mental wellbeing.  However, new research shows that a combination of life skills, which can be learned and built upon, may be key for reducing risk of depression and enhancing wellbeing into older age.

A study by Steptoe and Wardle (2017) examined 8000 participants over the age of 52 years old.  The findings of the study link 5 important life skills with a variety of benefits, including lower levels of depression, greater social connectedness, greater levels of subjective wellbeing, greater physical health in older adults and greater economic success.

The authors of the study outline that the combination of these five factors and can lead to greater wellbeing:

  • Concientiousness
  • Optimism
  • Emotional Stability
  • Sense of Personal Control
  • Determination

No one factor alone can account for the benefits outlined in the study, but instead an accumulation of the aforementioned life skills is important.  The authors suggest “fostering and maintaining these skills in adult life may be relevant for health and wellbeing at older ages.”

Individuals with the lowest rates of the five skills had a 23% rate of depression.  Those with the highest amounts of the skills, had a rate of just 3% who suffered from depression.

The good news is, is that if you feel you could improve in some of the skills mentioned above, these things can all be developed and built on.

Here are some simple tips I’ve put together to help you to increase these important skills:

  • Conscientiousness – if you’re not someone who is naturally conscientious, this can be a broad area to try and improve.  Focus on a small area at a time – for example, improving your punctuality by planning ahead the night before…or creating a plan or list of tasks that you’re going to complete the next day. Remember when planning, to be realistic about what you can achieve in a day so you don’t run the risk of overcommitting, then feeling you haven’t accomplished your goals.
  • Optimism – If you tend to see things from a pessimistic viewpoint, you may have a tendency to attribute good things to external successes, and bad things to internal, permanent causes….but this can be changed.  Reflect on a recent success or positive event in your life, and write down what you did that contributed to that success.  If you’re feeling doubtful or pessimistic about an event in the future, try asking others for their unique perspective, to help you to gain a more balanced view of the situation.
  • Emotional Stability – Practising mindfulness may be a simple way to improve your emotional stability.  Regular practice of mindfulness has been linked to improving mood fluctuations and having better control over mood throughout the day (see study here!!).  If you’re interested in practising some simple mindfulness mediations, try downloading a mindfulness app, such as Smiling Mind or Calm.
  • Sense of Control – If you’re feeling like life is often out of control, try setting yourself a small goal where you can measure and assess your progress.  Keeping a log of your baseline behaviours, then recording and monitoring your successes can be a great way of helping you to feel in control and to improve your self regulation.  It could be learning a new skill, or making a lifestyle change such as increasing your exercise or changing your diet.  Reflect on the hand work and effort that you put in to help make your goal a success.
  • Determination – Once you’ve set yourself a goal, aim to persevere, and avoid changing goals too soon.  Try and persevere and stick to the task you’ve set yourself.  If you set yourself a regular time to devote to your goal, you’re more likely to stick with it.

Would you try these tips?  Do you excel in any of these skill areas, or are there specific areas you feel you need improvement in?

If you’re finding that any of the skills mentioned above are holding you back, speak with your GP for a referral to a psychologist in your local area, or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 (Australia only) for 24/7 telephone counselling support.



Do you ever feel like a fraud?

Do you ever feel like a fraud?  Like it’s just a matter of time before people realise that you’re not really as smart/capable/talented as they thought you were, and that somehow you’ve managed to fool them so far, but eventually they’ll cotton on.  Despite the many achievements you make and all the positive feedback in the world, you brush this aside and convince yourself that you’ve succeeded by pure luck, and that deep down you don’t actually know what you’re doing.

If this sounds a bit like you, you might be surprised to learn that feeling like a fraud is much more common that you think.  In fact, psychologists have researched this phenomenon since the late 1970s and call it the Imposter Syndrome.  The term was coined by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes.  In their 1978 article – the psychologists state:

“Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample objective evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the impostor belief.”

You might feel like you’re the only person you know who feels this way, but a feature of imposter syndrome is a feeling of being alone in your thinking….when actually, imposter syndrome is very common and many people think they’re the only one who could feel this way.

Clance and Imes (1978) outlined that imposter syndrome may be more common in high achieving women and may be to do with having an external attributional style, which means attributing successes to luck or external factors, rather than attributing success to hard work or effort.

When you’re feeling like an imposter, this can change the way you relate to the world, impacting your behaviours, feelings and physiology.  For example, if I feel like a fraud at work, I might work extra hard or take on additional projects that I don’t have time to work on, to stop others from finding out that I’m in fact incompetent!!  This can lead to feelings of exhaustion and sadness, and physical tension…. or, if I felt like I only got where I am by luck, then I might avoid challenges or opportunities for fear of failure and people realising I’m not smart enough.  This could lead to feelings of anxiety or sadness which may further impact my thoughts, behaviours and physiology.

If you’re having feelings of fraudulence, this could be holding you back from achieving your goals.   There are things you can do to help!! Here are four simple strategies you can try to increase your confidence, and to help you to change your attribution style:

  • Think of a recent project or goal you successfully completed – go back and make a list of the specific steps you put in to reach it.  For example, you came up with an idea, you used your research skills, you coordinated meeting, you worked long hours to get it done etc – write down as much evidence as you can!
  • Reflect on how you got to where you are in your career – did you complete a university degree or course?  Did you complete other accreditations or certifications?  Did you undergo training in the workplace?  Did you apply for your current role after being successful in a more junior role? Write down the key milestones you’ve completed to get where you are, and reflect on those moments.
  • Change your mindset about success – instead of thinking about the outcome of a task or project, think about measuring success in terms of the effort you put in, and what you’ve learned along the way.  If you did had a failure at work, and it has affected your confidence, reflect on what you learned or gained from that failure.
  • Remember that your thoughts are just thoughts – they’re not facts.  Try and hold your thoughts a little more lightly and remember that they are not truths – the less you buy into those thoughts, the less likely they are to bother you.

Remember that these thoughts can be common, but there are ways to help you to feel more confident.   However, if you’re finding that feeling like a fraud is holding you back from achieving your goals or causing you significant distress, be sure to speak with your doctor or psychologist, or call Lifeline (Australia only) only 13 11 14.

Self compassion

Are you kind to yourself? Self Compassion can help you to flourish!

Are you your own worst critic?  Do you set higher standards for yourself than you do for others? Cultivating some self compassion could help you to thrive, and to reduce your stress levels!

A recent study by Gunell and others (2017) showed that uni students who showed higher levels of self compassion, were better able to cope with the demands of stress, and reported higher levels of energy, optimism and engagement, compared to their less self-compassionate peers.  They also showed increased psychological needs satisfaction, and decreased negative emotion, leading to higher levels of wellbeing.

The questionnaire measured three components of self compassion:  mindfulness, self kindness and common humanity.  The participants were 189 first year university students, and were asked how frequently they agree with questions such as “when something upsets me I try to keep my emotions in balance.”

Self compassion

Photo by RNR Productions

A further study by Fredrikson and others (2008) showed that people who participated in daily loving kindness meditations showed increased levels of daily happiness when compared to a control group.
The researchers state “these shifts in positive emotions took time to appear and were not large in magnitude, but over the course of 9 weeks, they were linked to increases in a variety of personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relations with others, and good physical health. Moreover, these gains in personal resources were consequential: They enabled people to become more satisfied with their lives and to experience fewer symptoms of depression.

The researchers state that “positive emotions produce success and health as much as they reflect these good outcomes.”

So is self compassion simply being easy on yourself?  Rewarding yourself more?  Developing self compassion can take time and practice.  We often have quite deeply ingrained thoughts about ourselves and the world, which take time to change.  Try the below simple techniques to increase your self compassion:

  • Try “Loving-kindness” meditations.  These meditations can help you to learn to direct compassion towards yourself and to others.  In addition, regular practice of mindfulness meditations can help you to connect with the present and let of go of judgements.  The less we judge ourselves, the simpler it is to be easy on ourselves!!  Try the Calm app, for free and easy to follow loving kindness meditations, or read more here.
  • Put things in perspective.  If you experience a setback or hardship, ask yourself the following question:  “If my friend X were in this situation, what advice would I give them?  What would I tell them?”  We’re often much tougher on ourselves than we are on others – take the time to think about what your reaction would be if someone else were in the same situation.
  • Reframe setbacks into positives – if you’ve encountered something difficult, consider what your learned from the situation?  Did you grow from the situation?  Did you use your strengths and try hard?  Try and reflect on the learnings you gained from the situation, and acknowledge the effort you put in.
  • Turn your ANTS into PETS.  Get to know your automatic negative thoughts (ANTS), and turn them into performance enhancing thoughts (PETS). What do you tell yourself when you’re judging yourself harshly?  You may find the same negative thoughts creep back again and again (“not good enough”, “I’m a failure” etc).  Remember that these thoughts are simply thoughts and not facts.  Try and think of some more useful self talk that could help you through the situation (Performance enhancing thoughts) – such as “I can keep trying and succeed” or “I can you my strengths to help achieve my goal in another way”.

Are you self compassionate?  Would you try these tips?  What do you do to cultivate self compassion?


Boost your resilience

Resilience is a buzz word in workplaces at the moment….but what exactly is resilience, and how do we increase it?

There are varying definitions and ways of measuring resilience, but to put it simply, resilience is the psychological capacity to bounce back from setbacks.  Some people are more resilient than others, and seem to cope with setbacks well, but for others, those same setbacks can be quite different.  The important thing to remember, is that resilience can be practiced and built!!

plant-1There are several characteristics that resilient people often share.  These include:

  • The ability to ask for help when needed, and to utilise the support network they have in place.
  • The ability to reflect on longer term goals and values when a setback comes along.
  • The ability to see failure and setbacks as a learning and growth opportunity.

Here are some of my favourite tips to help boost your resilience:

  • Get to know your own warning signs that indicate your stress levels may be feeling too high – what does it look like for you when you’re under more stress than you can cope with?  What are those triggers at work and at home that send your stress levels sky rocketing?  Once you’re aware of these warning signs and triggers, you can actively plan to manage them, by scheduling in activities that help you to cope, such as taking a lunch break, seeking support from your manager at work, going for a walk or to a yoga class, or whatever works for you.
  • Consider your reaction to the situation you’re in.  Remember that no two people experience the same event in the same way – our thoughts and attitudes about an experience strongly colour the experience we then have.  If you’re having a strong emotional reaction, ask yourself the question “is my reaction helping me with doing what I need to do” – if not, try and hold your perspective a little less tightly and focus on the things within your control.
  • Consider the coping style you’re adopting.  There are three main types of coping style – problem focused, which involves doing things that directly impact the problem, emotion focused – which doesn’t change the problem, but helps deal with the emotions you’re experiencing in relation to the problem, and avoidant coping – which involves doing nothing at all.  Problem focused coping has the best outcomes for wellbeing, if you can directly work to resolve the problem.  However, if you’re feeling too emotional, or the problem is currently out of your control (ie, it’s 3am at night!) – engage in emotion focused coping to help relax, refocus and recharge until you can take action in regards to the problem.
  • Make time for positive emotions.  Positive emotions are linked with increases in wellbeing, as well as increased creativity and problem solving ability (read more here!).  Positive emotions can also serve as a buffer against stress and help you to physically recover from stress!  The key takeaway here is that when you’re stressed, it’s more important than ever to do things you enjoy and that make you happy!!
  • Show some GRIT!!  People with GRIT show high levels of passion and perseverance – people high in GRIT can outperform people high in IQ – a bit of GRIT can help you to succeed!!  For more info, see this TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth.
  • Consider how you perceive stress – can you embrace stress as a challenge, rather than as something harmful?  See this TED talk by Kelly Mcgonigal for some information!!
  • Look after your physical health – if you’re eating well, exercising every day and sleeping 7-8 hours per night, you will be better equipped to cope with stress when it comes along.
  • When a setback comes along, ask yourself these questions:
    • Which of my strengths can I draw upon to help get me through this.
    • What could I learn from this setback?  How could it help me to grow, or to see a bigger perspective?
    • Who can I draw upon from my support network for help?  Do I need practical support or emotional support?  This question can help you determine who the best person may be to help. Are these services you can draw upon, or do you need help from your psychologist or GP.


Would you try these tips?  What else helps you to cope with setbacks?

Don’t forget, if you feel like you’re having difficulty coping with a setback, you can talk to your GP, or contact LifeLine (Australia only) on 13 14 11.

how do you let go jemma doley

3 Must Read Tips to Beat Anxiety

Throughout my life, anxiety has often got the better of me….capturing my attention and hooking it in with thoughts and worries about the past or the future….things I couldn’t control.  At times worries have prevented me from doing things I enjoyed and held me back from challenges.

When anxiety comes, it’s like a weight on your shoulders….instead of engaging in life and enjoying the moment, thoughts simply weigh you down.  However, it’s important to know that anxiety can be treated and managed.

Here are three of my favourite tips for reducing worry.  Try these simple tips and see how they work for you.  I suggest practicing them when you’re feeling good, so that you can learn them and then apply them during times of increased stress.

  1.  Slow your breath.  Breathe in for 3 seconds, then out for 3 seconds.  Repeat 10 times, and notice how you feel.  Slowing your breath is key for controlling anxiety symptoms – slowing the breath will signals to your body to relax, and will help you to start to breathe more deeply (diaphragmatic breathing).  You can do this technique anywhere!!
  2. Try worry time. Spend 5 minutes each morning actively worrying (yes, that’s right!).  By giving your worries the time of day they’re looking for, often they don’t distract us so much throughout the day.  If you start to worry later in the day, put that thought aside for worry time tomorrow!!  For full instructions on this techniques, see this detailed post on Worry Time
  3. Practice mindfulness.  Regular mindfulness practice can help us to unhook from our thoughts when they’re distracting us.  Rather than trying to challenge our thoughts, mindfulness can help you to let go of your thoughts and maintain a focus on the present.  Mindfulness is also relaxing and can be a fantastic way to unwind after a stressful day.  Download a free app, such as Smiling Mind, and try practicing mindfulness for 10 minutes each day for a week, and notice how you feel!  For more details on mindfulness, see this post.

Taking time out for self care is essential for managing anxiety.  Would you try these tips?  What else works for you when you’re feeling worried?

If you find that worry is interfering with day to day life, call Lifeline (Australia only) on 13 11 14 for free telephone counselling on a 24/7 basis, and see your GP for further help.

Growth Mindset

Do you have a growth mindset?

Do you have a growth mindset?  Have you ever convinced yourself that “I’m just not a maths person,” or “I’m no good at learning languages”? Have you ever given up on a problem because you feel you’re just not smart enough to finish it??  This may have due to your mindset around your ability to change and grow.

Carol Dweck’s mindset theory is about how people implicitly attribute the causes of their intelligence and other factors.  Our mindset is often shaped through how we are praised and rewarded during childhood.

With a growth mindset comes the belief that basic qualities and abilities can be developed through hard work, effort and dedication (“if I work hard, I can succeed at this,” “if I put in more effort next time, I could get a better outcome”).  A growth mindset is linked with receiving praise or feedback for your effort, progress or strategy on a task, as opposed to receiving praise for intelligence or being talented.   As a result, those with a growth mindset are more resilient in the face of setbacks and see setbacks as learning experiences.   They are more motivated, they seek out learning opportunities and perceive effortful or difficult tasks as making them feel capable or smart.

In contrast, a fixed mindset, is the belief that traits and abilities such as intelligence, personality, talent or particular skills are fixed traits which we can’t change (“I was never a numbers person”, “I wasn’t born smart” etc).  A fixed mindset is associated with being praised for outcomes (winning or losing!) or being praised as intelligent or talented.   As a result, those with a fixed mindset may avoid challenges, and may feel incapable when a difficult task requiring effort comes along, as they fear that failure is a reflection of their character, and may reveal they’re not intelligent or talented.  Those with a fixed mindset are less likely to show resilience and perseverance in the face of setbacks and will show decreased motivation for difficult tasks.  Children with a fixed mindset may also show increased distractibility in the classroom, and will try and validate their intelligence through performance.

Do you want to learn more about how a fixed or growth mindset can be developed in children?  Click here to watch a fantastic video!!

How can you develop more of a growth mindset?  Try these simple tips.

  1.  Reflect on a time you’ve had a positive outcome on a work task, assignment or other important goal.  What was it that you did that helped you to succeed?  How much time did you spend preparing or practising?  What was the strategy you chose which helped you achieve your goal?
  2.  Next time you set yourself a goal around achieving a particular outcome, also set yourself a learning goal.  Despite the outcome of the goal, what could you learn through the process of striving to achieve your goal?  For example, if I had a goal of successfully delivering a presentation at work, I could set concurrent learning goals such as developing my knowledge in the presentation topic, developing my confidence in public speaking, and developing my skills in leading a project.
  3. Reframe your failures as “learning opportunities.”  Consider a time you didn’t achieve the outcome you set out to achieve.  What did you learn from this failure?  What were the skills or learnings you gained whilst working on the process of the goal?
  4. Are you finding the thought of a difficult task daunting?  Set yourself small but achievable goals, and break the larger task down into smaller more manageable chunks.  Do you need more knowledge or information before you start the task?  Set this as your first goal!  When you achieve this, spend time reflecting on the learnings you gained.
  5. Have realistic expectations around the time and effort needed to learn a new skill or accomplish a task.  Learning something new takes time – be sure to reward yourself for the effort you’re putting in along the way, and remember to keep your focus on the learnings you’re gaining along the way, rather than a win or lose outcome!!

Would you try these tips?  Is your mindset a growth mindset?


  1. Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Constable & Robinson Limited.
Shopping Addiction Logo

Do you have a shopping ADDICTION? How to beat it!!

Shopping Addiction Logo

Is your Visa bill bigger than your savings account? Do you continuously find yourself eating two minute noodles until your next pay cheque comes and you can afford to live large again? Then this post is for you!!

Fear not, you are not alone! One in 12 Australians report compulsive shopping, also known as Oniomania (Intill, 2004).   Research also shows that women are more often affected than men. Oniomania is often a response to feelings of sadness, depression, low self esteem, loneliness or anger. As we feel worse, our urge to spend increases. Have you found that post shopping binge, those same feelings return? Whilst spending may relieve painful emotions short term, the job of shopping is a temporary fix only. Those negative feelings often return, intensified….especially when this is coupled with a large credit card bill or poor financial choices.

Why is purchasing such a pleasurable experience? Why do some people have more trouble controlling the urge to purchase than others? Biological components are also at play.

Dr Joshua Buckholtz (2011) showed that people with high concentrations of the neurotransmitter Dopamine were more likely to engage in compulsive behaviour, such as overspending and even behaviours such as gambling and drug use. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter present in all healthy brains, is associated with “reward” and high levels may cause individuals to seek reinforcement through negative behaviours. The implications of this are that compulsive spenders may also engage in other compulsive behaviours such as overeating or risky.

How is shopping addiction treated?

Psychological treatment focuses on helping people with shopping addictions to change their behaviour patterns. This involves looking at the underlying feelings or thoughts that drive the spending, and then helping to address and change those thoughts and feelings. Treatment may also involve helping to replace shopping with more positive behaviours and building alternative coping strategies.

Anti-depressant medication may also be utilised if compulsive shopping stems from underlying depression. Some anti-depressants may also assist in reduce impulsivity, which also may be a factor underlying compulsive shopping.

Could changing the way you spend your money be a useful strategy? Can you get more bang for your buck!?

Money doesn’t always buy happiness, so they say! (Although, I wouldn’t know, having not yet experienced the money part of the equation….). Dunn, Aitkin and Norton (2008) posit that the way we spend our money may be at least as important as how much we earn.

In a study by Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson (2011), the authors outlined several key concepts which underlie why spending doesn’t always bring happiness and provided some key learnings to help us get more “value” from our money.

1)   Purchasing of experiences brings more happiness than the purchasing of material goods. Think about the happiest moments you’ve experiences in the past year…. Did they include “that time you bought that fabulous $200 sweater you wore once, then shortly ruined after misreading the dry clean only tag!?” or were they the memories you shared with friends… An overseas trip, seeing an amazing live band or learning to scuba dive…

2) Many small pleasures trump excessive large ones – savouring a small piece of chocolate is often far more satisfying than gorging on the whole box. A special treat like a good coffee, a delicious cupcake, a massage or a night out will bring you far more satisfaction than a whole box of cupcakes or having a night out every night of the week. One new handbag will probably bring you more happiness than 10 new handbags.

3) Delay consumption!! The anticipation of a new purchase makes it all the more exciting. As adults, no one tells us what we can and can’t have. Without setting our own limits, it’s easy to fall into an “I want it all, now!” trap.   By delaying purchases, we are better able to consider the value of that purchase and are more likely to make a wiser choice. It also means that when we do make a purchase, that it’s all the more satisfying!

4) Using money to benefit others brings us more happiness than using the money to benefit ourselves. Dunn, Aitkin and Norton (2008) conducted a study where people were randomly assigned to spend money on either themselves or others. Participants assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend on themselves.

Ok great….so spending differently might help but what can I do to reduce my spending entirely?

1)   Set yourself a goal – examples may include saving a small amount each week for a special purchase, such as a holiday, without using credit card or savings. The more meaningful you make this goal, the more likely you are to stick with it. Just remember to make this goal realistic and attainable!! A small success will encourage you to set bigger goals.

2)   Delay consumption! Next time you have a sudden urge to purchase a fabulous new bag or delightful pair of shoes, stop and reflect. Often once we take away the emotion from the purchase, we realise we never needed it that much in the first place. Try waiting 24 hours before you go back to the store/website

3) Unsubscribe from shopping related mailing lists and newsletters. Each day my inbox is flooded with emails about various sales, new products, fantastic deals etc…. Try removing yourself from online shopping mailing lists. Unsubscribe/stop viewing “consumer blogs” such as fashion blogs. If there are certain blogs which influence you to spend, try and avoid these pages. Consumer blogs often project an ideal picture of what it’s like to “have it all.”  Bloggers may seem to have a new outfit every day, but stop and reflect – they’re probably a) given these items from sponsors, or b) live out of their car so they can afford shiny things. If you also find magazines are also motivating you to spend, trying eliminating these for a while and replacing them with reading a novel or interesting article instead.

5) Avoid spending time in shopping centres/malls! If you don’t see it, you won’t be tempted to buy it!!

5) When the urge strikes, engage in exercise instead. A short walk or trip to the gym can help us to disconnect from the urge to spend.

6) Examine the underlying thoughts that are driving you to spend. Are you shopping to deal with feelings of depression and anxiety? Are you lonely or bored? Are you trying to boost your self esteem through material goods? Once you understand the underlying motivation behind your spending, you’ll be better able to deal with negative emotions in a healthier way.

7) Avoid shopping when you’re feeling depressed. You’ll be far more likely to use purchasing as an emotional bandaid and potentially make impulse buys. If you’re having a bad day, try engaging in meaningful activity such as exercise or a hobby, or arranging a time to meet up with a friend or chat to them over the phone.

8) Use positive self talk when you feel tempted to spend. For example “I can choose not to spend” or “imagine how good I’ll feel if I reach my savings goal.”

9) Practice gratitude!! It could help improve your self control!! Try keeping a log of three things you’re grateful for each day!!

Do you struggle with shopping addiction!?  Do you want to change your habits?  Try some of these tips!!  If you’re finding shopping addiction is interfering with day to day life, see your doctor for a referral to a psychologist or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

Mental Toughness jemma doley

Boost your Mental Toughness!!

jem balcony 4


When you hear the term “Mental Toughness” it’s easy to think of sportspeople, or people putting themselves through extreme feats like climbing Mount Everest!!  Mental Toughness seems to be everywhere today, and is frequently referenced in sporting literature…. but do you need to be super sporty, or hike through mud and snow to be mentally tough?  Or can mental toughness help anyone achieve their goals?  Are there mentally tough musicians, dancers, office workers, accountants etc!?

Anyone, in fact, can be mentally tough….regardless of your interest or lack of interest in sport/ice bucket challenges/Tough Mudder/eating insects etc.  *Phew!*

Mentally toughness can be defined as “a collection of values, attitudes, behaviours, emotions, which enable and individual to persevere through any adversity, and to maintain concentration and motivation when things are going well” (Gucciardi & Gordon, 2007).  So in a nutshell, it’s about having qualities which can help direct you to persevere towards your goals and to be motivated to keep persevering!!

So what are these wonderful qualities which make up mental toughness?  Clough & Strycharczyk (2011) use the 4 “C’s” model of mental toughness, which breaks mental toughness into:

  •  Challenge – this is about embracing change, and seeing challenges as opportunities for growth!
  • Control – this is about having a “can do” attitude, feelings of accountability and belief you can achieve the outcomes you want, as well as your ability to control your emotions.
  • Confidence – a belief in your own abilities, as well as confidence in your ability to influence others!
  • Commitment – an ability to set clear goals, and to persevere towards them!

This all sounds great in theory, but are some people just born more “mentally tough” than others!?  Well luckily, mental toughness can be taught, and there are several strategies which have been tried and tested in the field of sports psychology, which are now translating to coaching and management literature.

There is no quick fix to become mentally tough, but through a combination of strategies, you can increase your mental toughness….here are a few of my favourite strategies!!

  1.  Goal setting.  Whilst this sounds simple, setting clear goals can help to direct your attention to the important tasks you need to focus on, and can enhance your commitment to goals.  Just remember to set your goals at a level of difficulty that is at the right level of challenge.  You may start which smaller, easier to achieve sub goals, then work towards increasing your sense of challenge buy progressing setting more difficult goals.  Think about how you will measure your goals….how will you know when you’ve achieved them?  Think about the support or resources you might need to achieve your goals.
  2. Mindfulness.  Mindfulness compliments mental toughness in many ways – mindfulness is actually a fantastic tool for helping you to develop attentional control and focus (a key element of the “control” component of mental toughness!).  In turn, when you’re better able to focus and remain in control of your emotions, you may just find you experience increased confidence as a result of this!
  3. Imagery.  Imagery, or mental rehearsal, is commonly used by athletes who are trying to practice and perfect their technical skills, without engaging in physical practice, and can also help increase your feelings of confidence and control.  Whatever you’re working on developing your mental toughness for, you can apply imagery to.  Are you giving a performance?  A speech?  Playing in a tennis match?  Whatever the task, close your eyes and imagine performing the task in real time.  Imagine yourself in the same setting where you would perform the actual task.  Think of the feelings you would typically have at the time of the task, and try and bring those to mind.  Practice your task/performance in as much detail as you can, using all your senses (imagining the task, imagining the sensations you would feel, imagining the sounds that you would hear).  Imagine yourself performing the task perfectly!
  4. Reflection.  Mentally tough people regularly reflect on their successes and setbacks…what worked well and what didn’t.  Reflection is a key tool to help you to review your progress, acknowledge your successes and improvements, and to make adjustments to your goals and strategies to achieve them if they’re not working!!  You could also reflect on your past successes in similar situations to increase your optimism and confidence even more!!

jem balcony

Top - Keepsake the Label
Leather Necktie - Jewellery by Others

Remember, like all changes, building mental toughness takes time and persistence!!  Enlisting social support from friends and loved ones can also be a great tactic to help support you in your changes.

Would you try some of these strategies?  Would you go on a mental toughness journey to help you to achieve and persevere at your goals?

Change your habits

Change your habits

Change is hard work!!  It’s often much easier to maintain the status quo than to challenge ourselves to change habits.

Here are a few of my favourite posts on goal setting to help you get started on the path to achieving your goals!!

What do you want to achieve?  Why does it matter to you?  Would you try some of these tips?

Self Regulation and Goal Setting

A simple strategy to improve your self regulation

I for one, know what it’s like to set goals just to realise I haven’t come close to achieving them!!  I’ve set about many resolutions to increase my exercise, save money, improve my diet etc, but haven’t got there…why is this? Did I not clearly define what I wanted to achieve?  Was I not motivated to actually achieve the goal? Or could it have been that I hadn’t taken the time to look at what I was currently doing, and reflect on this is relation to what I wanted to achieve.

Self regulation lies at the heart of goal setting.  Self regulation is about firstly setting a standard for our desired behaviour, then monitoring our current behaviour….if the fit between our desired goal and our current behaviour is right, then we don’t need to act to change what we’re doing….. but if what we want to achieve does not match up with what were currently doing, this discrepancy (also known as Cognitive Dissonance) then motivates us to act!!

So….when preparing to make a change, firstly, set a clear goal for what you want to achieve (for example, I want to reduce my coffee consumption to one cup per day)…and then spend some time collecting some observations about what you are currently doing (currently drinking four cups!). It’s likely that simply comparing what you’re currently doing, to the goal or standard you wish to achieve, will increase your motivation to act towards change, as you have a clear baseline for what you want to address.  Taking the time to really notice what we’re doing, also helps us to notice when we’re doing things on “auto-pilot” and to reflect on possible triggers for our behaviours. Is it that in fact I go for another coffee when I’m in need of a break, or is it to relieve boredom?

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Watch - by The Fifth - Similar Here

Wanting to change your diet?  Start with a 1 week food diary where you write down everything you eat each day.  Wanting to save money?  Keep a log of every purchase you make (no matter how small) for seven days.  At the end of your week reflect on your log/diary in relation to where you want to be.  Then have a think about the triggers or antecedents that might have led to the behaviour you’ve logged.  This simple self monitoring task is very likely to increase your motivation and help you achieve your goals.  Continue your log as you set about achieving your goal, and this will give you objective feedback of your progress!!

It may sound basic, but it works!!  Have you tried this strategy when making a change?


Watson, D.  (1997).  The principles of self-regulation.  Self directed behaviour:  self modification for personal adjustment. Pacific Grove:  California, pp 111 – 136.