How To Build Your Mental Strength

By Eleanor Halls
14 March 2019
GQ Lab
Animation: Tibor Kárpáti
Expert-approved steps to keep your head in the game

1. Ditch the newsfeed

A survey from the US National Institute Of Health linked social media to depression and anxiety. A drip-feed of carefully selected and edited pictures on social media is a recipe for low self-esteem. If you can't quite face culling your Facebook friends list and deleting Instagram from your phone, set aside a maximum of 30 minutes a day for checking your social accounts – most phones even have a built-in feature to limit this. Less is more.

2. Take a risk

Structure and routine are important, but can get you stuck in a repetitive rut. Risks such as talking to someone new, asserting yourself in a meeting or trusting a new confidant can help stimulate personal growth. Assign yourself one manageable "risk" a week and reward yourself upon its completion.

3. Unsubscribe from your inbox

Emails can be addictive. Constantly checking your inbox at work is unproductive and an escape from proper work. Plus, checking emails when you are out of the office can increase anxiety.

4. Hug it out

Paul Zak, a pioneer of neuroeconomics, has found that eight hugs per day can make you happier. In a 2011 TED talk, he explained that hugging a romantic partner can spike oxytocin levels and decrease blood pressure, heart rate and stress.

5. Avoid complaining

Not only does it make you unpleasant to be around, but entertaining negative thoughts takes a big toll on your happiness and affects how you approach problems. Next time you're about to complain about trivialities, think, is it worth it? Then swap it for a positive or amusing comment.

6. Challenge yourself

The more you avoid uncomfortable situations, the more they make you anxious. Set yourself a challenging environment, keeping track of your thoughts, and you'll find it easier to rationalise your anxiety and realise it's not as bad as you'd anticipated.

7. Keep a rescue box

Make a box of reassuring personal items that relate to positive memories – such as photographs, music or an inspiring letter from yourself – and turn to it during moments of distress, or make a loved one remember to give it to you.

8. Get your oily fish fix

Not only do omega-3 fatty acids (found particularly in salmon and mackerel) help prevent cognitive decline, they boost serotonin levels via their content of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Low levels of DHA are linked to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, memory loss and Alzheimer's, so include oily fish and (not or) Krill oil supplements in your diet three times a week.

9. Keep a crisis calendar

Charting lows and highs can help you spot behavioural patterns. A meltdown might be linked to a certain social activity, work duty or a specific day of the week. Awareness of these particular patterns will help you prepare accordingly, so pin a calendar somewhere obvious, jot down your schedule, then mark your highs and lows with two separate colours.

10. Zen your space

A tidy home creates a tidy mind, so try adding "mindful" pieces to decorate key spaces in your life. Visually soothing designs are the way to go – think Crisp Pines and Ocean Mist. Place these pockets of Zen where inner calm is needed most: your bedroom, your desk and, yes, your phone screen.

Join GQ Middle East in conversation with Dr Shawana Vali, Founder of LMS Wellness; author of Just Read It, Omar Al Busaidy; Anas Bukhash, Founder, Bukhash Brothers, and Hassan Hamza at Gate Avenue, DIFC on Thursday, March 14 (5.30-8pm). GQ Lab in association with Gate Avenue, DIFC, March 12-14