How to be mentally strong

Watch your thoughts, change your life. Heard of it?

Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT), the most applied theoretical model in the mental health sector, teaches clients to become mentally strong, realistic and balanced by staying alert to negative thought patterns, using focused attention to challenge and combat them. 

Many clients introduced to CBT, however, are likely to receive directions, homework, worksheets and techniques that are particularly demanding, both mentally and emotionally. I have personally found, in my practice, that the nature of the cognitive tasks involved creates (in addition to homework non-compliance and other difficulties) a further draining effect upon already-saturated and emotionally overwhelmed minds.

In real life, most emotional reactions take place far too quickly to respond intentionally, even when we are taught or trained to ‘break it down’ and search ahead of time for the trigger. Observation and intentional control of thoughts can be hard to apply in the practical sense. Automatic thoughts are particularly hard to stop, catch and identify.

Basically, most emotional outbursts are deeply anchored in a raw body/pain reaction. It is my firm conviction that real change can only happen on an experiential (physical and emotional) level, not on a mental level.

The focus must shift from the mind to the body.

You don’t need to fight, change, or examine your mind to improve the quality of its content; rather, you need to attend to your body, and be present within. If you neglect your body on a daily basis and practice bad life hygiene, you can forget about gaining mental strength, achieving your goals, excelling, or staying strong.

Everything will catch up with you eventually. Everything. The boss is not the mind; it is the body, and you need to listen to it. When you empower your body by responding to its needs, the bullying mind loses its power, and finally listens to YOU.

When you empower your body, YOU gain full power and control.


How To Strengthen Your Body & Health & Immune System

To gain a better Health and allow your Body to be Your Doctor, first and foremost, you need to choose to make your body’s well-being your number-one, non-negotiable life priority. Because real mental strength comes from a healthy body. Your body is a sophisticated machine that evolved over thousands of years and was able to cope (if you are still here, obviously) with the worse sanitary challenges, climate changes and various diseases, it has all the tools embedded. Your job? to empower it with all that it needs and more particularly to listen to your body, so you know what it truly requires.

Here are the basics (too often dismissed, yet absolutely crucial):

1.   Fresh Air

Your body needs air—as in oxygen. Do you think because you breathe daily, that is sufficient? It isn’t. Most of the time, your natural breaths are shallow and incomplete. They oxygenate only a very small part of your body—not your entire self. The natural breathing of a typical Westerner is nothing more than puffing air: ‘spitting’ air out, and catching the breath right back. The oxygen is not going lower than your upper chest. Correct breathing involves going through your nose, past your chest and diaphragm, all way down to your stomach (filling it as much as possible) and all the way up through your mouth, evacuating all of the air like a self-deflating balloon.

Your body desperately needs clean air. Your internal organs do not normally receive the necessary oxygen to release their maximum potential. They are just surviving—in agony. Sickness is often (if not always) caused by blocked energy somewhere in your body. Sooner or later, you’ll pay the price of mental or physical illness from a lack of proper oxygenation. You must take regular, deep, controlled and unforced breaths, releasing internal tension, blocked energy, and toxicity. Massage your internal organs with incoming oxygen, and relax them with exhalation. Keep track of every stage of your breathing. Exhaling eliminates used, dirty air. Inhaling brings in vital life force. You breathe in LIFE, and breathe out DEATH.

Most of the time, you do not fully exhale what is killing you inside, and therefore cannot give yourself what you need to stay alive. In Sanskrit, breath (prâna) means life. Without breath, there is NO LIFE; and without conscious breathing, you have no conscious life.

Visualise your inhalations as healing forces, and your exhalations as letting go of what you no longer need or want in your mind and body. This, in reality, is the biological function of breathing: inhaling what you need (oxygen) and exhaling what you don’t (CO2). You can use your breath for psychological purposes, as well. Breathe in the strength you need, and breathe out what’s causing tension, grief and fear. Absorb what is necessary; discard what it isn’t. Make it a lifestyle rather than an occasional practice (yoga class, for example). 

From personal experience and yoga practice, I urge you to do this:

Whenever you feel sick, in great pain or about to faint—BREATHE. DEEPLY AND SLOWLY. All your internal organs need is oxygen—nothing else. Your body is already a cutting-edge technology that has everything it needs to survive. You have evolved into a masterpiece, able to regulate yourself and adjust under the most extreme conditions. Your body is capable of amazing recovery in almost all types of physically and mentally stressful situations, so just give it what it really needs: calm, focused and controlled oxygenation. Speaking from personal experience, I have come instantly back to my senses in critical circumstances, just by applying complete and conscious breathing. That’s how miraculous and effective this practice is.

If you have a more serious or chronic physical condition, breathe through the pain. Locate the pain and oxygenate it. Do not resist, battle against or tense up around your pain area. I know you may not be used to or comfortable with this, because you may have unconsciously picked up the habit of tensing in an attempt to control and isolate the pain from spreading further in your body. This automatic reflex, however, is unhelpful to your body, as the pain cannot heal in muscular tension or without receiving much-needed oxygen. Your organs must be relaxed and oxygenated to mobilise themselves for healing. Therefore, work always with your body—never against it.

2. Water

Your body needs water. Lots of it. Much more then you’re giving it. Your brain is composed of 75% of water; your body 70%. If you don’t fuel the machine, how can you expect to drive it? Three litres per day is the ideal target amount.

3. Healthy foods

Exclude from your diet junks foods and anything that is not organic and fresh. Not preferably…imperatively! Exclude processed foods, and anything that was originally plastic-wrapped. If you eat the same thing every day, expect nothing but deficiencies, starvation from lack of vital nutrients, and a slowing-down of your physical functions (at best) or sickness (at worse). Variety and balance are key.

How you eat is just as important as ingredients. Eating fast is a big downer, even if you eat in a perfectly healthy way. Your metabolism must have time to assimilate. Eating slowly also allows you to appreciate the value of food, to notice the effect it has on your body (if it’s good for you or not) and to awaken your senses. Eating must be a religiously mindful practice; an act filled with respect and gratitude. Stop eating when you feel full. Know when this happens (you would be surprised how many people can’t read their body limits). Eating slowly also prevents unintended weight gain.

Eat only when you are hungry, and don’t diet—just listen to your body. It will self-regulate, and bring you naturally to your normal weight, even if you have slipped outside your biological set-point. Three positive or negative point fluctuations within your healthy weight range are, however, normal. Start valuing your food, and be very cautious about what you put into your body. Quit toxic substances (alcohol, cigarettes, medications and other drugs) and empower your body to become independent of doctors and prescribed medication.

***Natural Foods are Your Best Medicine***

4. Sleeps and laughs

‘A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything’. (Irish proverb)

Sleep is a crucial part of your basic functioning. Avoid sacrificing your sleep to achieve things that won’t buy your health back once you’ve attained them. Drugging yourself on coffee and high-caffeine ‘energy’ drinks[CL1]  is not empowering your health, it’s ruining it. Both are diuretics capable of seriously dehydrating your body. The more time you spend outdoors, in the fresh air and away from the radiation of electronic devices (computers, smartphones, TV) the better your sleep quality will be. You mind needs to wind down without exposure to electronics at least a couple of hours before sleep time. Go for a walk after work—with your kids, your dog, your friends, or just alone. Breathe deeply and slowly in your bed, repetitively, riding and counting your breaths. Take refuge inside your body and listen to the melody of the breath.

If you stay long enough inside your body, cleaning it persistently with your breath, the space of this sacred inner place will make you fall asleep.

5. Physical exercise

Your body is built to be active and to move. It’s a no brainer. When you exercise, you cause your body to move the energy from your mind down to other areas, vitalizing and empowering your body as a whole. You are strictly not a sedentary creature. You must implement daily, for 30 minutes at the very least, some form of exercise such as running, swimming, dancing or stretching—whatever. Moving and exercising also allows you to eliminate toxins and unlock the energy stuck in key parts of your body. Walking back and forth in your office does not count as exercise. Physical exercise must reach the stage where your mental activity dissolves completely and your body awakens. If you feel more present in your body than in your mind, you are doing it right. For hyperactive or compulsive over-thinkers, intense, sweat-producing exercise is a daily must.


Consider these simple body empowerment principles as vital; not only to cleanse your body to the fullest, but also to clean your mind. As you become increasingly clean within, you become able to notice much more easily, and much earlier, the number-one troublemakers and anxiety-provoking factors: your automatic thoughts. These are your main fear and illness generators. Fast identification of negative automatic thoughts enables more effective control. After exercise, you will observe the effects of these intruders on your general health as soon as they want to sneak back in. You will then realise how they disrupt your well-being and your inner peace–in your body—.

Final word and conclusion: the mind-body-spirit relationship can never be neglected and medical approaches must consider the body as a whole just like psychologists and psychiatrists must approach the mind assessed holistically and not in isolation. Without a full assessment of the life quality involving physical health, nutrition and the quality of the environment where one lives, important holistic elements, can be missed, and when this happens there is a serious impediment to change, resilience and therapeutic outcome. Therefore, a GREAT start is to empower your own body and spirit, learn how it functions & what it needs, before turning to professionals and delegating your own health into the hands of mainstream/chemical/invasive medicine – often more damaging to our overall health than not.

Self-awareness, mindfulness, consciousness, or meditation – all these are similar terms. Self-awareness is a good way to realize the link between your thoughts, feelings, and actions.

Simple mindfulness technique

Just watch yourself and know what is going on in your mind and body, and how thoughts make you feel and react as a result. Pay attention, know what your body needs – it gives you feedback all the time.

On what is good for you and what is not. It sheds light on the mind and Ego’s aversive effects. If you always know what you feel within, if you can figure out what you need at the moment and are able to express it, you are a great communicator and a fully conscious/mindful human being.

When you silence the mind, you are about to realize how powerful, whole, and free you are; you realize you have everything you need here and now at your reach.

You come to realize how long you have been driving around in life, blindfolded by your Mind and Ego.

Furthermore, when you shut down the thinking and start to feel your own presence, you become intensely alive, you awake to your senses, and the whole universe lives in you, through you. You feel at one with the universe and everything that surrounds you and I don’t mean to sound cliché here, I simply speak from first-hand experience.

It’s a state of being attainable through feeling your inner body’s energy.

Just by simply being and feeling from within can lead to a radical transcendental experience.

You sublimate into life’s energy and become flowing energy as a permanent state, or progressively achievable through practice, depending on your courage, strength, and wisdom to let it all go and surrender completely to this pure state of being.

Essentially, the mind should be restrained to process things as they are and not how they should be.

The mind “should” be restrained to process only things that can be changed by you. To find a solution here and now to an identified problem. If you can fix it, then figure out a way. If you cannot, why worry about it?

All the rest of your mental activity is a complete waste of time. Junk material.

Keep in mind that if you cannot change it, you can only let it go.

But if really and objectively you judge you can change it, face and deal with it by taking small steps. Break it down into small, feasible tasks, so it no longer seems all so overwhelming. The first step is the hardest. The following ones flow once you make the decision to tackle the identified problem – the most important word in change is “begin”. Indeed, once you begin, it is always harder psychologically to give up your decision, because you have already invested time and effort in planning the steps and working out a solution.

Once you take the most significant step, relax and trust the process. Rome was not built in a day. Nor will important changes be. In conclusion, the mind, when used consciously, can be an extraordinary tool. It is capable of creating beautiful realities and futures. Imagination is key.

When we use the mind with full presence and control what enters and develops in it, we turn it from our bullying Master into our Servant.

It is vital to watch the mind and protect it from external events, more specifically from reacting to anything that is going on out there and in there (your mind). Unsupervised thoughts have a powerful potential: they trigger a chain reaction of feelings and subsequent behaviors in a harmful out-of-control fashion. It all goes very quickly. Become aware of this. This, specifically, can cause permanent damage to relationships and sabotage what you really care about. Be aware of how your mind reacts and arbitrarily interprets others’ behavior or words.

If you are reacting to someone else’s words and reactions, pause, take a deeeeep breathhhhhh, double check with the person what is really meant/intended if at all possible, and decide if it’s worthwhile polluting your inner energy by reacting to it.

Another Super Powerful Tip when you get triggered by something is: Pause, Breath Deep, and ask yourself: “what is this emotions teaching me?” Put your hand on the heart and you have it…..right there. The inner wisdom soothing answer. Listen & Tune in each time in this manner and you’ll go a very long way.

Nothing really is worth it when you aim for self-control. Fundamentally, thoughts, people, and situations are powerless without your reaction and that’s where your whole power lies.

Why are Thoughts not Real and Should not be Acted Upon?

As explained earlier, automatic thoughts result from a biased mind. From a virtual representation of the world and ourselves, based on past, social, and cultural experiences. Your reality is not someone else’s reality. Ultimately, everyone misses out not only on the actual reality but also on truly meeting each other as long as we humans live in our own minds. We are autistic individuals, in a circus, thinking we are communicating and relating to each other. We enter relationships expecting that the other can read our mind, accusing them of doing certain things on purpose, comparing the past with the present all the time, expecting them to be or act a certain way or hoping they will change eventually so they can fit into our own world representation, mold of values, preferences, and life visions.

The mind is the collective insanity of human beings. It’s the common illness that unites us in our tragic human condition and separates us at the same time. Relationships are hard, trusting others is hard, life is hard because we live in our minds. Because our reality clashes with what is in our mind and its unrealistic expectations. Realize this fundamental thing: people love us or hate us and this has nothing to do with us. Indeed, people project on us their own reality or their own dream.

We typically and (unintentionally) activate in them a dream they had once in their internal world or remind them of traits present but denied and rejected in themselves. This is called projection. The stronger our reaction to someone is, the more we are projecting. Everything that unfolds ever after they meet us is not so much dependent upon what we do or say than it is on their own mental processes and ongoing internal representations. Nevertheless, this does not exclude responsibility for our own behavior nor the high benefits of effective communication – we must learn to communicate our personal experience only, rather than projecting unconsciously our world and expectations on others.

This insight, once reached, will depress your Ego who will do anything to refute this truth as it is highly indigestible. After all, you have worked all your life to preserve and feed the idea of your identity, i.e. of your (false) Self. This realization will inevitably kill your Ego’s reasons to exist; it’s an immediate death sentence. A death sentence to the idea of Self and its actual value and impact on others, in our physical world of form, illusions and appearances. Well, let me tell you … Great! That is extraordinary news because when your Ego dies, you finally start living.


Deconstructing the idea of Self, the idea of a separate entity from everything that surrounds you, is your life’s mission and journey. An illusion cannot be maintained for long in a world where everything is impermanent. Your Ego is also subject to this universal law and will eventually crash with maturity, grief, loss, or near-death experiences. Look forward to these experiences because they will set you free. They will shed light onto what you really are and what life is all about.

“Who am I?” The never-ending human preoccupation. The search of a lifetime. Do you know who you are? Do you think you know? How do you define yourself? Which criteria do you base this on? How do you figure it out? Are you content with “yourself”, or are you finding it hard living with yourself? Are you disliking or constantly criticizing yourself? Do you love, yet other times hate yourself? Whoever you think you are, or others think you are, everybody’s wrong. Who you are, underneath the image you are projecting to your consciousness and your surroundings, cannot be grasped by thoughts nor others’ judgements. Who you are has nothing to do with your history, achievements, physical assets, or any personality attributes. On a deeper level, you are no-one. Don’t get me wrong, I mean no offense; on the contrary. It’s rather good news and you will soon find out why.

First of all, I would like you to understand that who you “think” you are, the self, is a mental construct, a fabrication of a biased and profoundly conditioned mind. The concept of Self, as a separate individual, is an illusion of your Ego. Not only is it a concept strongly and unconsciously reinforced by our western societies (collective insanity) through values such as individualism, identification with social and professional status, competition, performance, and consumerism, but more substantially it is a result of your early social and cultural conditioning. You are falsely identifying with cultural definitions of self, your past, and the world of form: which is a world of gain and loss, of constant change and impermanence.

You have formed a False Self-concept, a representation of yourself and the world, an internalized virtual reality based on early childhood experiences and socialization processes. Your mind has become conditioned as a consequence of these experiences.

The Ego is a representation of the False Self formed as a result of early psychological wounds and resulting external achievements and failures, all integrated unconsciously as part of Self.

Who you are is not to be found in mind processes, nor in your past, nor in your future achievements, and even less so in others’ perception of you. Who you are is to be found within yourself through self-awareness. (More on this later).

What Psychology Says

In the field of psychology, the concept of False Self was first introduced by Winnicott. He drew on different psychoanalytical theories to explain the False Self as being a defense mechanism built unconsciously and designed to (over)protect the True Self. This unconscious process often results in emotional problems such as feeling empty or “phoney” inside, inauthentic, not “fitting in”, not belonging, alienated to self and others while “other people’s expectations become of overriding importance, overlaying or contradicting the original sense of self”.

Winnicott ( in “Ego Distortion in Terms of True and False Self” ) argued that the False Self begins to develop in infancy, as a defense against an environment that felt unsafe or overwhelming because of a lack of sufficient attuned caregiving. As a matter of fact, the False Self confuses your sense of identity and your actual capacities.

Who you think you are today, you will not be tomorrow. What you think today that you would be capable of doing, or not, in the future is a gamble, not a certainty.

Yet, many of us are instantly and unhesitantly ready to bet about certain things; i.e. “I would never do such or such thing – ever.” Or you may firmly state, “I would never lie about how much I earn to impress someone” and find yourself one day doing it. Do not delude “yourself”: you are capable of doing anything and everything, in all shapes and forms, in all positive and negative aspects – at any given time. Your False Self is not as coherent and “perfect” as your Ego likes to think or to lure you into thinking. In fact, you have already done things you thought you would never do. You may have already lied, cheated, betrayed, acted out, judged, condemned, used your physical assets to influence, been “superficial”, or spoken badly (of others), and trust me, you will do it again without even realizing it. You’re better off recognizing right now, before you meet another crashing disillusion (about yourself and others), that there is no such thing as the Self. There are only different contexts, social roles we play at each moment of our lives, with different people, in various functions we hold – always acting differently and according to each person and situation.

As time goes on, you discover every day new facets of your potential and fluctuating nature. Yet, when you become too rigid on ideas about who you think you are, or about what you think you can or cannot do, you prevent yourself not only from connecting authentically to others, but also from excelling in all different life fields. You simply become focused on results, compare yourself inappropriately and inaccurately to others. And the outcome? You live inauthentically, at half of your true potential, with mediocre results. However, when you choose to focus on the process, when you bring the being into the doing and you are melting completely into your respective role/function/activity/interaction, you will excel beyond your Ego’s expectations. Simply because just being, soaking into the present moment, is unleashing your real potential and surrendering to your true self.

Who you actually are cannot be thought but only felt by surrendering to the present moment. Since in this manifest world your idea of Self is a mental artefact, in order to evolve and free yourself from pain and disillusions, you must observe your mind.

The Ego- The Problem of the Mind

If you pay attention to your mind, you will be able to recognize that most of its activity is causing unnecessary suffering. Suffering is essentially and uniquely created by your mind, not by an actual external event. An event is always neutral. What creates suffering is the interpretation you make of it. What you let into your mind and body and ruminate over is the cause of suffering and not the actual event. It’s the attachment to a preconceived idea, of how things or people or a situation should be, according to your internal and virtual representation of the world, that causes pain. The reality just is as it is, with no mental labels, pure and raw: you give it an interpretation because you need to label it.

Labeling is a need to control, to categorize, and is precisely what causes pain or happiness – depending on how your interpretation fits into your internal world and how it satisfies your inner interpretation. Emotional pain is therefore caused by your Ego’s (or conditioned mind’s) expectations, by being attached to an imagined outcome and rejecting what really is. Suffering happens indeed when Ego’s hopes or expectations have not been met. When reality is different from what we wanted.

Wanting is Ego’s nature and its principal flaw. The Ego never wants what is already there; the Ego always wants something else. Ultimately wanting causes inevitably harm.

This occurs either by losing what we already have (as not appreciated, cultivated, or attended to), while chasing that something else, or by missing out on all the present opportunities along the way, too focused on new achievements. In essence, there is nothing wrong in the intention of wanting. What is wrong is being attached to an outcome. Let me break it down to you: most things turn out differently from what we planned in the first place because what happens to us in life is mostly uncontrollable and unpredictable. We act in interaction and in inter-correlation to all that is. Most of the time things do not depend exclusively on us but on a multitude of causes. Absolutely everything in this world is interconnected and multicausal.

Nevertheless, we spend most of our lives power-delusional and in deep suffering – thinking we have full control. We live in a pure madness: the madness of the Ego that is delusional about control. In reality there are only two things that we can control: what enters our mind and how we respond to external events or situations. What meaning we make of it and what actions we take to improve the presenting situation and related feelings. Resisting the reality as it is and the fact that we have little control over things is like hitting your head against a brick wall. It hurts. And eventually, you will get knocked out.

Your Thoughts are not Who you Are – Am I my mind?

The Mind – A Beautiful Tool to Use with Awareness and Moderation
The very nature of the mind is to generate automatic thoughts fuelled by unconscious core beliefs, related fears, and past experiences. It operates on auto-pilot mode, ruminating incessantly thoughts about the past or about the future. Just like the ripples of a lake, most of its activities are wavering and are at best a waste of time, or at worst, detrimental to you and others.

Reviewing, chewing on, analyzing, and dwelling on past scenarios are all mental processes relying on one of the most fallible components of our brain: the memory. The memory is notoriously and scientifically known as highly unreliable whether it concerns “happy” memories or distressful events (N.B. I am not referring here to particularly traumatic events that can indisputably mark the memory and leave accurate, detailed remembrance; we may leave this topic to the side for the moment.) Nevertheless, from a neurobiological point of view, research has demonstrated our memory’s limits. Each time we mentally return into the past, we distort that past reality. We select only a few elements, out of their context, and during the retrieval and analyzing process we involuntarily modify, emphasize, diminish, or exaggerate them at Ego’s convenience. This applies for the recent past as much as for the distant. We always see it with a distorted filter.

Memory is certainly unreliable, selective and influenced by unconscious core beliefs and early personal stories; therefore, it is wise to avoid using your mental energy for processing the past.

Why would you want to go there anyway? Why is the question to ask yourself at all times: what am I looking for in the past? What is the purpose of my current thoughts? Can they serve me in any way today or in the future? How can I use them to my benefit? If you are dwelling on past experiences in order to take something away, to learn and/or grow from it, then go for it.

But keep in mind you are dealing with outdated material and it may be wiser to just let go of it; most of its relevancy and accuracy has been lost. Staying fully aware of the present moment avoids having to learn lessons and make mistakes you may regret later on.

On the other hand, if you like to live in the past by habit, self-indulgence, and the taste of this oh-soreassuring and familiar drug (i.e. place), then you will miss out on your life. You may be attached to your personal story and even receive social positive reinforcement for your victim role. These are impediments to growth and change. The more you identify with your past, your story, your culture, and your origins, the more you live in the dark, under your insane Ego’s conditioning, never meeting your true self. On a larger scale, symbolically, you can use the past to create meaning and transform your life and past experiences into something new, empowering for you and for others. When you do that, you are evolving.

If you want to go deep about your meaning, note that I talk about it in detail in my book (chapter “On your deepest fears”, How to find Meaning in your Life).


So in summary, daydreaming about the future, planning or worrying about it, is an equally useless practice: the future rarely turns out the way we plan it, although it does turn out the way we fear it. The ongoing feeling of worry attracts precisely our imagined scenario. Thinking, planning, daydreaming are all processes
“The past is where you learn the lesson, the future is where you apply it, don’t give up in the middle”—Unknown.

Again, related directly to our history: they are simply improved versions of our past story. A more appealing satisfying movie of our past lives. Ultimately, the quality of your present will determine the quality of your future.
So, basically, when you follow the mind, you are always living outside Reality.

The mind cannot live into the present.

If you wish to keep both feet on the ground you must become able to go beyond the mind, beyond your Ego and the False Self, to capture Reality as it is. You must emerge above all your senses and observe them neutrally in order to understand what the mind really does to you. In order to gain insight into how your mind’s natural propensities enslave you into a virtual world, into fear and into pushing you to feel and act destructively, you must watch the mind and not live in or be ruled by it.

The quieter your mind and your surroundings are, the more you can hear.

Make space. Make time. Learn to Meditate & Go within, as all answers that you seek are not to be found on a intellectual mind-based level. Live mindfully. The most helpful practice for me has been to work with some of the most powerful guided meditations for spiritual awakening. I have recorded them and improved them for you in my Guided Mediations CD/M3 Album (find it in “Shop”).

I hope you enjoy them and that they will impact you as much as they changed me. Look forward to hearing your feedback! share share share.

Much Love,