Build a “Mental Toolbox” to Help You Navigate Through Rough Times

mental toolbox

When it comes to self improvement, there is no single solution that is magically going to fix all of your problems.

My personal approach is to think of self improvement as building a “mental toolbox” with a wide-range of different tools, exercises, and techniques that I can choose from when necessary.

The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more options you have when you are confronted with a difficult situation.

This is very important because not every tool is going to be effective in every situation. Abraham Maslow once famously said, “If all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.”

This is a cognitive bias that is known as the “law of the hammer,” and it describes our tendency to have an over-reliance on a tool simply because it is familiar to us.

But just like you can’t build an entire house with just a hammer, you can’t build a better life with just one “mental tool.”

For this reason it’s always a good idea to diversify our toolbox and better equip ourselves for the various situations we find ourselves in life.

In this article, I’ll outline some of the most common tools in our “mental toolbox,” as well as some more advanced ones that I’ve discovered over my years studying self improvement.

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How to Grow Your Self-Esteem With Family Bonding Activities

Who doesn’t want to have harmonious relationships with members of their own family? As much you and your spouse love each other, obligations, children, and perhaps some family issues can result in you not being as close as you used to be. When you’re close with your family, it’s great for all members – kids grow up knowing that they’re loved, and spouses remember their love from the time when they just started dating and first fell in love. If you spend time with your family doing meaningful activities, you’ll become more open, calmer, and more self-confident than ever before. Give a try to some of these activities they will help you strengthen the family bonds and at the same time grow your self-esteem.

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Happy Birthday! The Emotion Machine Is 8 Years Old


Exactly 8 years ago today, The Emotion Machine published its very first article.

At the time when I first started this website, I had no idea what it was going to turn into. Now we have over 500 articles about a range of topics in psychology and self improvement, along with thousands of readers on a daily basis.

Despite this success, The Emotion Machine is still a baby to me – and it still has a lot of growing to do.

Most new websites don’t last more than 3 years, but I’ve been determined to keep this site alive and make sure it reaches its full potential. In many ways, it’s become the backbone of my life.

So whether you’re completely new to this site, or you’ve been following The Emotion Machine since the beginning, I want to give you a big “thank you” for being here and showing your support – it truly means the world to me.

Let’s recollect on some of the great content that have been created on this site over the years.

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Self Actualization: A Beginner’s Guide

self actualization

Fliss blogs over at Sweet Clean Living, focusing on personal development for the mind and body. Whether you want to banish your insomnia, improve your self confidence or learn how to avoid toxic people, Fliss has something for you – try her free 50 Every Day Life Hacks Cheat Sheet and have your best day ever – every day!

The other day, I had the pleasure of accidentally overhearing a conversation.

Two women, perhaps in their early to mid-thirties, were in my local Starbucks at the table next to me. Both were unhappy in some way – one had an issue with her partner, and the other hadn’t been sleeping well.

The first woman said she “needed something more” in her life. The second kept giving her suggestions – was she bored at work? Maybe she needed a new hobby, or a new haircut? But, the first woman just couldn’t put her finger on what it was that she was “missing.”

Not wanting to butt in, I knew exactly what the “thing” she was missing was:

Self actualization.

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5 Fundamental Pillars for Building a Meaningful and Purposeful Life


We all crave meaning and purpose in our lives, but many of us have difficulty finding it.

Often times without meaning, we can fall into a “nihilistic trap” of thinking nothing in our life really matters and we are just mindless machines going through the motions.

However according to the new book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith, there are many potential sources to find meaning in our lives. This article will breakdown these into 5 different pillars: belonging, purpose, storytelling, transcendence and growth.

Interestingly, psychology research is beginning to discover that finding “meaning” is just as important as finding “happiness.”

In one study, participants were asked over a 10 day period to either do an activity that was related to “pleasure” (sleeping in, playing video games, going shopping, or eating sweets) or do an activity that was related to “virtue” (forgiving a friend, studying, thinking about one’s values, and helping or cheering another person).

Those who were placed in the “pleasure” condition reported an increase in positive emotions right away, but those positive emotions often faded quickly. Those who were placed in the “virtue” condition didn’t report as much positive emotion, but they did report more increased well-being in the long-term.

Aristotle was one of the first philosophers to draw a distinction between “hedonism” (life of pleasure) and “eudaimonia” (life of meaning):

    “To Aristotle, eudaimonia is not a fleeting positive emotion. Rather, it is something you do. Leading a eudaimonic life, Aristotle argued, requires cultivating the best qualities within you both morally and intellectually and living up to your potential. It is an active life, a life in which you do your job and contribute to society, a life in which you are involved in your community, a life, above all, in which you realize your potential, rather than squander your talents.”

This is a good summary of what it means to live a meaningful life. It often requires being able to connect and contribute to something that is larger than ourselves. It’s more than just chasing pleasurable feelings.

The rest of this article will describe these 5 fundamental pillars behind a meaningful and purposeful life.

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