Whether an economic downturn has taken a toll on your bank account, or you're dealing with a chronic health issue that interferes with your everyday life, hardship is inevitable. But the way you deal life's inevitable challenges is up to you.

You can either make the best of a tough a situation or you can dig in your heels and indulge in some serious self-pity. Choosing to feel sorry for yourself, however, has some serious consequences.

It will drain you of the mental strength you need to be your best. And it could keep you stuck in an unhealthy cycle of misery.

Self Pity vs. Sadness

Sadness is a normal, healthy emotion. Feeling a bit heartbroken can help you honor something that you've lost. And allowing yourself to feel bad for a while is key to healing an emotional wound.

Self-pity is different though. It goes beyond healthy sadness. When you feel sorry for yourself, you'll exaggerate your misfortune and experience a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.

You might start thinking that your life will never be good again. And you might conclude that no one could possibly help help you feel better. This way of thinking is self-destructive.

Self-pity creates an unhealthy cycle. You'll grow to believe any effort you put into changing your life will be useless. Consequently you won't take any action and you'll stay stuck in a dark place.

Whether you want to prevent self-pity, or you've already started feeling sorry for yourself and want to stop, these two psychological tricks will put an end to the pity party:

1. Behave in a manner that makes it hard to feel sorry for yourself.

When you find yourself in the midst of a pity party, you'll be tempted to waste your energy staying stuck there. Rather than fix your problems, you'll spend time insisting potential solutions just won't work.

You'll also likely find yourself complaining about the unfairness of your circumstanes in an effort to get other people to attend your pity party. And while your complaints may help you gain some temporary sympathy, your efforts will eventually wreak havoc on your social life.

Commiserating with people around you isn't really a bonding activity. After all, no one ever says, "What I really like about her is that she feels sorry for herself." And as you repel people, you'll be more likely to fall deeper into self-pity.

So it's imortant to change your behavior. Do things that make it harder to indulge your own catastrophic thoughts.

This may involve getting up off the couch and getting moving. Physical activity can do wonders for your mental and emotional state. So go for a walk, take a jog, or start cleaning the house. Moving your body can shift your mindset.

You might also do something kind for others. Volunteer for a charity, help a friend, or simply find someone in need. Kind acts remind you how much you can give to others and prevents you from staying focused on what you think other people should be doing for you.

2. Exchange self-pity for gratitude.

While self-pity causes you to think "I deserve better," gratitude is about thinking, "I have more than I deserve." And changing the way you think can ward off self-pity while also improving your life in many different ways.

Studies show gratitude offers a multitude of benefits ranging from better sleep and improved health to more mental strength and better resilience to stress.

There are many ways to practice gratitude. You might write in a gratitude journal every evening. Or, you might make it a habit to think about three things you're grateful for every time you're tempted to complain about how bad your life is.

The key is to find a gratitude strategy that works for you. When you begin to recognize everything you have to be thankful for, you'll no longer be tempted to throw a pity party.

Build Mental Strength

Giving up self-pity will make you mentally stronger. And the stronger you become, the easier it is keep self-pity at bay.

Refusing to feel sorry for yourself ensures that you won't waste valuable time and precious energy wishing things were different. Instead, you'll be equipped to take the positive action you need to solve problems, cope with your discomfort, and develop a healthier outlook.

Published on: Dec 9, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.