When we think strength, we often think of how it lives in observable forms. But strength, whether physical, mental, spiritual or emotional, always begins within. 

This month is all about the concept of inner strength. It takes focus and a bit of patience to develop our own power in unseen ways, but, eventually, inner strength becomes apparent in more visible forms – whether it’s a firmer core or a calmer demeanor.

Top yogi, celebrity trainer and NYT best selling author, Mandy Ingber is leading the charge this month as we celebrate her new book, Yogalosophy for Inner Strength. As a former TCM Guest Editor, we have full faith in Mandy’s philosophies and the impact their practice can have on our capacity to live well (check out her detox yoga flow sequence here).

If you followed along with April’s TCM Earth Month Eco-Challenge, you already know how this goes: Check in every week for a new set of challenges designed to help us develop fierce inner strength – starting with the mind.

When was the last time you wrote a love letter to yourself? Or sat and did nothing on purpose? We know that you’re thinking – moments like these may seem frivolous – but redirecting our thoughts can help build emotional resilience and mental clarity in a profound way. For the deeper cuts, we’ll let Mandy take the lead below…

In my book, Yogalosophy for Inner Strength, I incorporate five yoga-based routines with weekly activities that can help you to develop inner strength and realign your heart, mind, body and spirit. Tuning into your heart and learning to embrace joy will allow you to take any experience and spin it towards serenity and balance.

This week’s challenge it to develop a strong mind. Inner strength for the mind can mean harnessing and reframing our thoughts. Simply changing the way we look at things can alter our experience. So often, we can view a similar situation with a new perspective and build a bridge towards serenity.

MondAY: Meditate
Don’t just do something, sit there. Meditation, simply put, is mindful breathing. Being present in the moment is simple, but not easy. Meditation is like a mind muscle. The more you work out, the stronger you get. Meditation is a like a work out for your attention. The more you show up, the stronger you get.

You can get support online. Try an app like Headspace, or an online support group like Deepak Chopra’s meditation challenge, or simply set aside 15 minutes to sit in stillness. Set your timer and sit with a straight spine, watching your breath move in and out of your nose. Each time you notice your mind drifting, simply return to your breath. Be a mindfulness master for a day.

tUESDAY: Learn Something New
Picking up a new skill engages the brain and keeps your mind youthful and active. Just as your body must move or it will atrophy, so must you use your mind. Hobbies that require focus and attention help to strengthen connections in the brain and develop the part of the brain that improves memory. Learning Photoshop or quilting, a new language or picking up an instrument all fall into this category. If learning something new doesn’t appeal, you can always exercise, which can also ward off memory loss!

wednesday: Write a daily Gratitude list
What you focus on expands. There is no better way to put your head in the right space than to write a gratitude list. Select 10 things that you are grateful for today. It can be something as simple as, “the moon hanging in the clear sky,” or “the fact that I can breathe today.” Even when it seems that things are most difficult, you can get back to basics.

thursday: Eat Brain Food
Sesame seeds, walnuts and ground flax seeds make the list due to anti-oxidants and omega 3s. Adding these or lentils to your salad or meal as a condiment can play a role in optimal brain functioning. When I was growing up macrobiotic, we would sprinkle gomasio (the ground sea salt and sesame seed condiment) on top of our brown rice before school to make us smarter.

friday: Write a love letter to yourself
Why wait for the boost of a love note or text from a special someone when you can take the time to express some self love. Writing a love letter to yourself can help to redirect your perspective and help you to be responsible to the most important person in your life: you! How often do you take the time to tell your spouse or child how deeply you feel for them and how great they are? How about taking the same time for yourself? The things we say about ourselves and to ourselves are incredibly important. It’s time to retrain your brain. Write yourself a love note. Seal it up, and put it away somewhere. You will find the note at just the right time, I promise.

saturdaY: Look in the mirror and say ‘I love you’
This sounds corny, but it works wonders. Look deeply into your own eyes, connect with yourself and say I love you. Do this exercise for one minute. There have been times in my life where I didn’t believe it, and then there have been those times when I am at a party and I am in the bathroom looking in the mirror saying “I get you. I get your jokes, I don’t have to wonder what you are thinking about me, and I know I’m going home with you. You are the one! I love you.” Be brave and try it.

Sunday: take a Walk in your neighborhood
The action of walking balances the hemispheres of the left and right brain. Many who are resistant to meditation can leave their phone behind, get present and consider the walk a moving meditation. Become present to the sensation of your body moving through space. Notice the smells, sounds and sights of your surroundings. Make eye contact and smile to the people you encounter. A 30-minute walk will boost your mood and your metabolism, get the heart pumping the blood to the extremities and serve to balance your mental state.

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