Want to improve your emotional health? Change your beliefs.

How do you remain physically healthy? Maybe exercise daily, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, get ample sleep, etc. But, how do you remain emotionally healthy? What would you say to that?

Some of us might be stumped. Some may say cry when you want to, or express anger. These are helpful tips. But we’d like to zoom out and introduce you to a practice that leaders the world over nurture – having a healthy mindset. In other words, healthy emotional beliefs. Let’s look at three such beliefs, as recommended by psychologist Ellen Hendricksen:

Belief #1: I can stay on this path for longer.

This helps when you are working towards achieving a goal that feels larger than anything you’ve attempted before. It leads you to two key skills: grit and self-control. For example, if you’re planning on saving money for a vacation to Vietnam, grit will help you tackle some difficult decisions for the long run, in service of the goal. Eg: cooking at home to reduce unnecessary spending. Self-control, on the other hand, helps you address short-term temptations, like stopping yourself from ordering a third drink.

Why is this important? Good things take time to build – be it a good relationship with your manager, a productive work-life balance, or a steady routine. Grit and self-control can be your allies on this journey.

Belief #2: I can laugh at myself.

A little bit of humor is always desirable. But, can we direct it at ourselves, when we make mistakes or seem frivolous? Hard, right? There are some given ways to know that you need such humor. Says Hendricksen, “Red flags include being judgmental, micromanaging, always having to be right, getting defensive, holding grudges, or never apologizing.”

Where do you begin? Consider your qualities and accept that you have flaws. As does everyone else. It reduces the pressure of having to be perfect. What about yourself makes you feel embarrassed? Convert that into a funny metaphor. Like Stephen King said about himself, “I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.”

Belief #3: I am worthy of love and respect.

This is an important belief and has long term scientific impact. A Harvard University study, which began in 1938, continues to follow the lives of 724 men. The researchers have gathered data on the men’s physical characteristics, their habits, their careers, marriages, relationships with their mothers, and much more. What did they find?

As Dr. George Vaillant, the study’s director says, men who were the most satisfied in their relationships — those who felt loved and gave love — at age fifty were the healthiest at age eighty. This isn’t just a reference to romantic love. It is also about friendships, supportive workplace relationships, and pets!

If you’re about to dismiss this, pause and consider that our belief systems shape our reality. Because they decide how we behave. And this in turn, shapes people’s behavior towards us.

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