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How Can Psychological Capital Strengthen Your Mind?

Believing you can change is the first step toward making it happen.

Key points

  • Psychological capital is the belief that we have the power to influence our own well-being through our thoughts and actions.
  • Hope, empowerment, resilience, and optimism (HERO) are central features of psychological capital.
  • You can strengthen your psychological capital by cultivating specific skills.

"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." —William James

Psychological capital (PsyCap) is the belief that our thoughts and emotions can have a positive or negative impact on our mental and physical health.

Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

There are many benefits of PsyCap, and research has shown that people with high levels of psychological capital have improved resilience, better coping skills, increased happiness, and reduced depression and anxiety. These benefits can help us to lead more fulfilling lives, both personally and professionally.

PsyCap is a powerful tool that begins by aligning your beliefs and the ability to influence your mental health. Specific steps to cultivate positive habits can lead to improved psychological capital.

Hope is the regulation of perception toward the belief in control in the future. Hope happens when a belief that a positive future outcome is possible combines with a desire for that outcome.

Over the past several years, research has shown that hope is not only teachable but that it is unique among all the positive emotions. It is the only one that needs negativity or uncertainty to be activated. Hope is the transmuting of destructive emotions into useful and positive ones.

You can train yourself to not fall prey to negativity or uncertainty by developing a hopeful mindset. Hope gives us the power to transform problems into possibilities and to foster strength and determination in meeting our goals.

Our minds can overcome challenges and thrive despite adversity. Yet the belief that we possess this inner strength is the essential ingredient.

In research for a new book, The Positivity Effect: Simple CBT Skills to Transform Anxiety and Negativity into Optimism and Hope, I found these new habits come from four components: hope, empowerment, resilience, and optimism. Each makes up one of the central pillars of PsyCap. Collectively these elements are represented by the acronym HERO. Here is a brief description of how each of them functions.

Empowerment is the confidence you feel as you build upon success. When scientists study confidence and empowerment, they often use the term "self-efficacy." Self-efficacy is understood as a person’s perceived ability to bring about desired out­comes. Empowerment is the natural result of self-efficacy. Hope is when you believe something is possible; empowerment is when you trust you can make it happen.

Resilience has been defined by Dr. George Bonanno, a leading researcher on the topic, as “the ability of individuals to expose to a potentially highly disruptive event to maintain both healthy psychological and physical functioning and the capacity for positive emotions.” Bonanno has long promoted the position that people are much more robust, more resilient, and less fragile than we think. Within psychological capital, resilience is more than just bouncing back—it is an opportunity to bounce forward.

Optimism and hope are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different traits. Optimism is the general sense that things will work out in the future. Hope is what you can do to make those things happen. Optimism is the overall feeling that the future is going to be OK—not that you are going to control it. Hope, on the other hand, is about perceived control.

Strengthening Psychological Capital

There are several ways to strengthen your psychological capital. One way is to practice positive self-talk. This means speaking positively to yourself and believing in yourself even when things seem difficult or impossible.

These affirmations can be statements that you repeat to yourself on a daily basis, such as “I am capable of achieving my goals” or “I will stay focused on what I want to accomplish today.” Or they can be corrective statements when something has gone wrong. In the latter case, this inner narration allows you to challenge your perception and give you another way to look at the situation.

It’s important when you use positive self-talk that you do not judge yourself. “That was a stupid mistake,” puts you further in a deficit. “I know I can do better next time,” takes the sting of self-judgment out of the self-reflection. Self-talk and affirmations help to instill empowerment and confidence and can remind you that you have the power to influence your well-being.

Another way to use psychological capital to strengthen one’s mind is by changing our tonality when we speak. Tonality refers to the way we speak or write—the volume, speed, pitch, etc.—which can have a strong effect on how our message is received. Research has found that using a more positive tonality—speaking slower and louder with an upbeat inflection—can be more persuasive than speaking in a more negative manner. By utilizing these examples of psychological capital—positive language, affirmations, and tonality—you can strengthen your mind and develop healthier patterns of thinking. For more ways to improve communication check here.

Finally, it is also important to focus on what you can control rather than stressing over things that are outside of your control. This will help build not only your feelings of hopefulness but also the degree to which you feel empowered. A growth mindset—the ability to thrive on challenges—is a terrific asset to cultivate optimism. This means viewing failures as learning opportunities rather than as personal shortcomings or setbacks. Yet the latest research suggests that it is having a flexible mindset—not too rigidly adhering to a particular view of a situation—that will promote resilience during challenging times.

By strengthening your psychological capital through positive self-talk, focusing on controllable factors, and developing a growth and flexible mindset, you will be able to build strong relationships and improve both your performance at work and overall well-being. With practice and dedication, you will be able to develop your inner HERO, take control of your thoughts, and move closer to achieving your goals.


Ali, S., Rhodes, L., Moreea, O., McMillan, D., Gilbody, S., Leach, C., ... & Delgadillo, J. (2017). How durable is the effect of low-intensity C.B.T. for depression and anxiety? Remission and relapse in a longitudinal cohort study. Behaviour research and therapy, 94, 1-8.

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