By Michelle Armstrong, CPT, Best Selling Author, Soul Coach & Mindset Expert

Let’s face it, difficult times are a part of life. No matter what your age, there will always be some challenges to face and obstacles to overcome. But with these challenges come opportunities—opportunities to develop and grow.

For instance, in our 20s we struggle to find our place in the world and establish a fulfilling career and relationship. In our 30s and 40s, women in particular are often faced with juggling work, family demands, and finding time to take care of ourselves. During this time, we may also start to have negative experiences, such as divorce, aging parents, and loss of loved ones. Then we reach our 50s and 60s, when life presents us with new health challenges that may force an unwanted change in lifestyle.

Young or old, fit or not, we all have to face challenging times and learn how to navigate through them. It’s never easy, but here are four ways to develop your mental strength that will empower you in all stages of your life.

1. HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE

Being mindful of all the things you have to be grateful for in your life can make any challenge you’re experiencing a little (if not a lot) easier. According to a number of studies, people who take the time to engage in a daily practice of gratitude have an increased level of positivity and a much brighter outlook on life. Instead of experiencing the glass half empty, their cups are always half full. When times get tough, a grateful attitude can help you to rise above with a different perspective and improved sense of self. Often people who have a grateful heart will find blessings inside of the challenges they face and use these blessings to further improve their lives.

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THE EXERCISE:
To develop an attitude of gratitude, list 10 things you are thankful for every day; especially during times of hardship or difficulty.

2. FORGIVE AND LET GO

When people hurt you or break your trust, it can be difficult to let go of the anger you feel and forgive what feels unforgivable. But holding onto past pain and hurt often creates more harm than good, and prevents us moving forward. While the act of forgiveness results in positive outcomes, there can be very negative consequences for people who are unable to forgive. Withholding forgiveness can actually lead to physical repercussions, including fatigue, depression, anxiety, and a host of preventable health problems that stem from emotional stress. But when we forgive and choose to move on, we can avoid these negative pitfalls.

THE EXERCISE:
While forgiveness isn’t always easy, here is one way to help you get started. Take a moment to get quiet and be still. Reflect on your definition of forgiveness and how refusing to forgive is affecting you and your life. Ask yourself if withholding forgiveness is really benefiting you at the end of the day, and consider what it might feel like to let the past go and move on with your life.

3. STRESS LESS AND RELAX MORE

When we get stressed, the body produces a hormone called cortisol that negatively affects our health in numerous ways. If produced in large quantities, it can cause a number of physical concerns like weight gain and heart problems, as well as mental issues and mood disorders.

There are two main types of stress to be aware of: chronic stress and acute stress. Acute stress, which is more commonly known as the “fight or flight” response, is valuable when we are exposed to an immediate threat like being chased or attacked. But chronic stress can be very dangerous, and accounts for almost 90 percent of all health complaints and diseases. People who live a stressful life are more likely to experience major health problems and a decreased quality of life.

THE EXERCISE:
To reduce your stress, do more of what makes you feel happy inside and allows your mind to relax. Put down your phone, stop checking your social media platforms, and take a moment to chill out. Regularly engage in mindfulness activities such as yoga, journaling, and meditation, and spend as much time in nature as you possibly can.

4. DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND TRY NEW THINGS

As we get older it is easy to get set in our ways and avoid stepping outside our comfort zones. Many people let their dreams fall to the wayside and tell themselves their dreams don’t matter. According to research, however, the biggest regret most people have at the end of their lives is not doing more of what they wanted and not following the dreams in their hearts. They regret not asking that cute guy on a date or taking that trip to France with their girlfriends. They wish they had spent more time focusing on their dreams and less time worrying about failing and money. People who choose to avoid new experiences often end up feeling resentful and empty later in life, wishing they had done more with their lives and not been so governed by fear.

THE EXERCISE:
Here are some things you might like to consider to get you outside your comfort zone:

• Learn a new skill
• Travel to a new country
• Cross something off your bucket list such as skydiving or entering a marathon
• Hire a life coach