Cultivating Mental fitness

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Cultivating Mental fitness

In today’s society, physical fitness gets a lot of attention. Being physically fit generally translates to looking good, but also because a healthy body can help prevent certain conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Physical fitness is defined as a general state of health and well-being and, more specifically, the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupation. Exercise is the continuous process, lifestyle, and habit that helps us maintain or improve that physical fitness. This could mean performing a sport or occupation, recovering from an injury, feeling well in our own skin.

But what about our minds? What does it feel like to be mentally fit? How do we benefit from being mentally fit? What can we do now to develop a resilience that will help us when the going gets tough?

Adapted from the illness/Wellness continum-John W Tavis 1972
Adapted from the illness/Wellness continuum-John W Tavis 1972

When we are mentally fit, we flourish. It is not merely the absence of illness, but feeling like you are your best possible self, represented by the right side of the wellness scale. At the left end of the scale, we have an illness: its disabilities, symptoms, and signs, affecting our ability to work and interact with life in an enjoyable way. In this area, oftentimes professional help is needed to dig us out and help us reach the neutral zone. We can arrive at the neutral zone from either end of the spectrum, as changing life circumstances and lifestyle can also knock us from wellness into neutral or further.

It’s helpful to think of the neutral zone as a junction point, in which our actions are what determined whether we are heading towards illness or wellness; and inaction keeps us in place, neither here nor there. Through increased awareness of our mind and body, we start to sense what works for us, make changes to our lifestyle, and shift further into the wellbeing zone.

The benefits of being mentally fit means we are able to use our mental abilities to our fullest extent, allowing us to be more creative, make the most of opportunities as they present themselves, and approach stressful situations more calmly and with less anxiety. In the same way, exercise is beneficial in fighting depression, a practice of meditation can have a positive effect on your physical wellbeing.

For example, a period of high or prolonged stress keeps excessive amounts of the hormone, Cortisol present in our body (this has been known to cause impaired thyroid function, disruption of sleep, elevated blood pressure, and lowered immune functions, to name a few). Meditation will help you manage stress, thus diminishing its physical impact. It is important to note that by incorporating making these lifestyles changes, we embark on a journey of continuous self-growth and will discover new territory on how good we can truly feel in our bodies.

What can we do to increase our mental fitness levels?

  1. Focus on one thing at a time: “Multi-tasking” is worn as a badge of honor, but multi-tasking too much is not healthy. Practice being in the present. When you are taking a walk, take in your surroundings, the weather; if spending time with friends, really listen to what is being said. Turn off your phone and jot down any to-do lists running through your head.
  2. Spend time in nature: Once there, you feel your body sigh in relaxation. Nature is a great way to ground yourself in times of stress. Feel your feet on the Earth as you walk on the beach or in a park and connect in.
  3. Be kind to yourself: engage in activities you enjoy and that gets you in a zone where you’re so immersed you find yourself not thinking of anything else. Book a massage, read a book, sing a song, go for a swim, cook a nice meal, build a Lego tower. Take time to do something that makes you feel happy.
  4. Know when to ask for help: “Many hands make light work.”
  5. Serve others: “If you light a lamp for someone else it will also brighten your path.” (Buddha) By looking for ways to help others, we have quieted the voice in our mind focusing on ourselves.
  6. I personally enjoy coloring: I really get into selecting a color and its placement, and I find the sound of the marker scratching the paper relaxing.
  7. Playing an instrument: the equivalent of a full-brain workout!
  8. Learn something new: this is a great way to keep your brain engaged. Curiosity and learning are great ways to keep the brain fit.
  9. Positive thinking: It is important to be mindful of our thoughts as we go through the day. When you notice a thought with a negative tone simply change its course towards optimism. The more you practice this, the easier it gets. Daily affirmations are also very helpful in setting the vibe for the day.
  10. Community: be with people you love and who love you for who you are, who support you in your dreams, and who encourage you to take care of your mind. Do the same for them. Our tribe is crucial in sustaining wellness.

Mental fitness is a very important aspect of wellbeing, not just in terms of prevention or in times of stress, but also in improving our quality of life on a daily basis; no matter where on the sliding scale we may be residing at any given time. As you move further right on the Wellness Scale, the tools you acquire along the way will be at your disposal when thrown off course.

It’s a continuous process of self-awareness, cultivating habits of positive thinking and mindfulness, and a lifestyle of understanding and patience that will develop a more resilient mind. All of this helps us to find meaning in our relationships with those around us enabling us to more fully enjoy this journey through life, regardless of outcomes or destinations.

It’s the difference between surviving and thriving. Let’s find out how good life can be!





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