Are we stronger than we give ourselves credit for?

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What do you think of when you hear the word strong? An image of a weightlifter, Olympian or someone that can withstand a lot of exertion? Strong, based on its traditional dictionary definition, is a word that evokes images of physical fitness and being ‘tough.’ However, perceptions of the word are shifting as more people prioritise inner strength and self-care. Here at Fitbit, we think the last 19 months in particular has shown how a holistic approach to health, prioritising both our mental and physical wellbeing, can help us feel strong in uncertain times.

In a recent survey conducted by Course5 Intelligence on behalf of Fitbit in August 2021 of more than 13,000 people in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UAE and the UK1, one in ten people surveyed believe the traditional, or dictionary definition, concept of ‘strength’ as being physically strong; over 50% of those surveyed recognise that the definition of true strength is a combination of mental and physical traits while 33% of respondents define it as the ability to deal with the stresses and challenges that life can present us with. So how can we lean into our inner strength to enhance our lives? Strength looks different for everyone and most of the time we can easily define someone else who we perceive as strong – but don’t necessarily think of ourselves as strong based on our own personal definition of it.

This tendency to overlook our own strengths is reflected in our survey whereby 66% of respondents cited someone other than themselves when asked to name the strongest person they know, and instead naming a parent (35%), friend (8%) or spouse (10%). Though it’s great to recognise other people in our lives as strong individuals, honing in on our own strength and flexing it can help shift one’s mindset.

Positive Psychologist, Professor. Ilona Boniwell who teaches positive leadership at l’Ecole Centrale Paris and HEC Business School, states: “If something doesn’t feel right people automatically look for what is wrong, what am I not doing right. I encourage people to think differently. Instead, look at what is working for you, when do you feel stronger and focus on that, to affect any changes you want to make. A shift in mindset and strengthening your self-belief will help build resilience that will help you better cope with daily stressors and challenges – which is something we all face.”

When it comes to how people build mental strength to feel ready to take on each day, physical exercise comes out on top with 60% of people surveyed saying a physical exercise helps them feel strong. Sleep came second for 54% of those surveyed, while meditation came third with 28% of people.

“The idea of ‘self-care’ is much more than a buzzword, it is a continuous practice and, like strength, it doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. Mental strength is increasingly recognised as a major part of our overall health, but it takes time to nurture. Fitbit can help support your self-care practices with over 300 sleep and meditation relaxation session in Fitbit Premium2, including content from Calm, the #1 App for Sleep and Meditation3 and Deepak Chopra, M.D., Pioneer of Integrative Medicine, and Founder of The Chopra Foundation and Chopra Global whose exclusive Mindful Method sessions are designed to help improve your emotional wellbeing,” Joanne Savage, Marketing Director in EMEA, Fitbit at Google.

So more people are checking in with themselves, but what about how we speak to ourselves? Much of self-talk depends on your personality. In the survey, the findings show that men are more likely to engage in a more positive internal dialogue (56%) or what’s known as ‘positive self-talk’ compared to 45% of women. Alongside gender discrepancies, there were also differences in generations as well. According to the findings, when it comes to discussing mental resilience, 84% of those aged 25-34 were more likely to feel comfortable talking about their mental and physical strength with friends, family members or colleagues, as opposed to 71% of those aged 18 – 24.

“This is a strength in itself, recognising how important it is to talk, to share how we are feeling with others,” said Professor Boniwell. “If you take time to focus on the positive aspects of your daily experiences you will begin to recognise just how strong you are. Before going to bed every night, think back over your day and remember three good things that happened – things that went well, that you succeeded in, enjoyed or were grateful for. This is more important than you think – appreciation helps you realise what you have accomplished, which, in turn, fuels your self-belief.”

As people move towards a more holistic approach to health, our recent survey shows that sleep and exercise are a top priority in feeling mentally stronger. To build on this, Professor Boniwell’s advice in shifting our mindset can help build resilience and therefore our coping skills with the inevitable daily challenges that arise. Fitbit can support your goals to help feel stronger through the community and tools which can help with your sleep, mindfulness and activity.