October 2017 Magazines 89052 - Page 70

In the early 2000s, professors at the University of Wales con- ducted a wide-ranging review of the research in the field, as well as interviews with a number of male and female world- class athletes. They distilled all of that down into what still stands today as the most commonly accepted definition of mental toughness: “People who are mentally tough have a psychological edge that enables them to cope better than their opponents with the many demands that sports place on a performer, and they are also more consistent and better than their opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.” Groundbreaking sports psychologist Dr. James Loehr, founder of the Human Performance Institute, breaks mental toughness down into seven key abilities: attention control, self-confidence, increasing positive energy, minimizing neg- ative energy, maintaining motivation levels, attitude control, and visual and imagery control. The reassuring theme that runs through all seven of these characteristics? Like a muscle, they can all be honed and bolstered with consistent practice. Train Yourself for Mental Toughness Whether it’s rounding up those last few items on your gro- cery list as your toddler has the mother of all meltdowns in the cereal aisle, grinding your teeth through an hours-long wait to get your driver’s license renewed, or even muscling through to the finish line in your first (and possibly last) 5K race, we could likely all make use of a little more mental might. Here are a few ways to increase your mental tough- ness quotient. • Jump out of your comfort zone (maybe even literally!). For most of us, part of the process of getting older involves moving deeper and deeper into a secure cocoon of family, friends, routines and responsibilities. There’s nothing nec- essarily wrong with that. Indeed, some people see it as one of the most rewarding aspects of adult life, but it can also lead to a lack of exposure to new and challenging experi- ences, and that in turn can negatively impact your mental toughness. Shake up your routine with a totally out-of-the- ordinary experience like skydiving, training for a marathon, or even just something like taking a ballroom dancing class. The novelty will give you a mental jolt that will shift your perspective. As Love Warrior author Glennon Doyle Melton likes to remind her readers, “We can do hard things,” and we should!