THE BLOG

How to Make 13 Your Lucky Number

03/21/2015 06:14 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2015

Check my past blogs and you will see that it is very rare I write about a book but I came across one that, as a psychologist, I feel obligated to shout out because I think it will help a lot of people.

13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do (HarperCollins) is the title and its author is Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker and psychology teacher. Suffice to say, it provides readers a framework for behaviors and thinking patterns to avoid on the grounds that they sabotage our effectiveness. The book is engaging and you get plenty of tips on how to transfer the book knowledge into life action. Instead of a book report, I thought you would enjoy meeting the lady who can tell you how to make 13 your lucky number.

How did you become interested in mental strength?
As a psychotherapist, I was fascinated by how some people were so much more resilient to stress than others. I paid attention to the factors that seemed to help certain people overcome adversity and it became clear that specific skills and every day choices made some people tougher than others. My interest in mental strength is also personal. Within a 10 year period, I lost my mother to a brain aneurysm, my 26-year-old husband to a heart attack, and my father-in-law to cancer.
Despite my pain, I had to continue working as a therapist. Figuring out how to be strong enough to help other people deal with the challenges in their lives, while also dealing with my own grief granted me a new perspective on mental toughness.

What did you learn or not learn from your parents about being mentally tough?
I was a really anxious kid. I was shy and I was terrified to try new things. Quite often I'd agree to sign up for things, like Girl Scouts or gymnastics, but when it came time to go, I'd try my best to get out of it. Fortunately, my parents always pushed me out the door and out of my comfort zone. They taught me that despite my anxious feelings, I could still get out there and do things, even when it felt scary. Eventually, I gained confidence in my ability to handle distress and I gained courage to get out there and do more. That certainly taught me I was tougher than I thought. I'm grateful they had faith in me when I didn't.

Can you inherit mental toughness?
Although you certainly don't inherit mental toughness in the same way you may inherit eye color, there are some biological components that can affect your mental toughness. For example, you may be born with a predisposition for a mental health issue, like depression. While, everyone has the ability to increase their mental strength, regardless of whether they have a mental health problem, mental health issues like depression can be a complicating factor. Similarly, some people are born with personalities that give them an advantage in increasing their mental strength. Regardless of our genetics, all of us can choose to grow stronger and become better.

How can partners help each other be mentally tough?

There are several things partners can do to help one another. Supporting one another's efforts is key, but it's also important to challenge one another. For example, if you think your partner is indulging in self-pity, address the issue. Discuss the dangers of throwing a pity party and encourage your partner to replace self-pity with gratitude. It's important to remember, however, that while you can influence your partner, you can force anyone else to change. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is focus on your own journey to growing stronger, and by doing so, you'll motivate your partner to want to become better as well.

What's the starting place for becoming mentally tough?
Self-awareness is the key to becoming better. It's essential to recognize the good habits you already have in place, but it's also important to acknowledge your counterproductive bad habits. If you wanted to increase your physical muscle, you'd need good habits like lifting weights. But you'd also need to get rid of bad habits, like eating too much junk food. Building mental strength is much the same. You need good habits, like thinking positively, but you also need to rid yourself of bad habits, like worrying about things you can't control. Once you know which areas need improvement, you can create a plan to become better.

Whether you are superstitious or not if you follow Ms. Morin's findings, 13 will bring you good luck!
www.drhankw.com

Amy Morin:
Author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Dowww.AmyMorinLCSW.com | amymorin123@gmail.comFacebook: facebook.com/aboutdiscipline | Twitter: @AmyMorinLCSWParentingteens.about.com | www.Forbes.com/sites/amymorin/