Your mind requires intentional health, wellness, and fitness practices, just like your body.
For some reason, many of us neglect the fitness of our minds, and that is hurting us.
It’s hindering our ability to flex our mental and emotional muscles when the challenges of life arrive. Even though our brain is not literally a muscle, I am going to speak about it in that context, because mental fitness has similar terminology and practices as physical fitness
If you’ve been paying attention to the television, you’ve probably noticed that mental health is a trending conversation.
This year has presented layers of stress that many have never faced, and mental struggles are on the rise. We are collectively trying to figure out the best methods to manage our lives, and remain resilient under the strain of uncertainty.
Even those of us that are mentally “healthy” are struggling to cope effectively. If our mental health begins to suffer, it is imperative that we act to restore health and begin the process of enhancing fitness.
Restoration of mental health followed by mental fitness strategies, is a recipe for progress.
You may be asking, “What’s the difference between mental health and mental fitness?” Here are some definitions as it relates to my work as a mental fitness coach:
- Mental health is more than the absence of a diagnosable mental illness. It’s a state of psychological well-being that includes our cognitive (mental), emotional, and social health. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, well-being is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy.
- Mental fitness is an extension of mental health. It goes beyond well-being. It reaches past health and involves the active pursuit of strengthening the mental “body.” It involves the consistent practice of strategies that enhance mental endurance, emotional flexibility, and strong relational connections.
Mental fitness is more than a state of well-being. It’s a state of thriving.
Thriving is layers above comfort, health, or happiness. It means to develop vigorously, flourish, prosper, or successful growth and development.
For example, a thriving plant has conditions that optimize its growth. It needs nutrients, air, potting that allows expansion, light, and the proper temperature for its type. The elimination of one of these factors can affect its growth. The rich lush leaves of a healthy plant are an indicator of internal and external factors that promote its ability to bloom.
Imagine yourself as a plant for just a moment.
Are the conditions optimal for your development? Do you have all that you need to be on the continuum of health and flourishing growth?
Take a look at your internal and external environment. Are both conducive to your mental and emotional enhancement? If you are not sure, today is a good day to explore where you are planted, and what the conditions are.
Here are three ways to boost your mental fitness and aid in your prosperous growth.
1|Increase the light.
The meaning of light is both literal and figurative.
Sunshine is just as important for humans as it is for plants. The sunlight increases the release of a hormone called serotonin, which helps us to feel calmer and boosts our mood. If you can, get at least 15-30 minutes of sunshine each day. If you can’t get it all at once, try 5-10 minute spurts on your break, while taking out the dog, or an after-work stroll.
Increasing the “light” also represents positivity. Minimize exposure to things and people that cloud or block your “sunshine.” Negative images, the news, social media, pessimistic family or friends, are just a few examples. Instead, actively seek out positive people and activities that make you smile and give you rays of hope.
2| Water your friendships.
I don’t know about you, but the pandemic has hindered some of my relational connections. It’s becoming more challenging to connect with friends. Since hanging out in person is currently not a safe option, finding new ways to keep current friendships strong is key. The most critical part is a commitment to reaching out in new ways.
For me, phone calls are the method of choice. Since I have an iPhone, it’s very easy to FaceTime and experience the energy of a face-to-face interaction. Zoom calls have also become a popular option for individual and group video meetups. No matter the method you choose, watering your friendships with your presence, can keep them growing through and beyond the pandemic.
3| Fertilize your mind.
Fertilizer for plants provides essential nutrients for proper growth. Just like the plant, your mind/brain needs nourishment as well. Our minds are complex, and the entirety of our life functions are dependent on its health and wellness. Because of the demands we place on our minds each day, we must fertilize it to maintain and improve functioning. The nutrients may be in the form of nutritional food, sleep, or quiet time.
Just as nutrient dense food for the body is varied, so is nutritional food for the mind.
The nutrients we choose will vary, but a few more examples include:
· Mindfulness practices that help us stay present-focused.
· Start or continue a hobby that brings you joy.
· Watch, read, or talk to someone that makes you laugh. Laughter relieves stress.
Many other activities and strategies will keep your mind rich in strength and growth.
This is just a start. Consider using this week to explore each of the three areas discussed today. You may even decide to use these questions as journaling prompts:
· How can I increase “light” in my life?
· Which relationships in my life need more “watering?”
· Which relationships need to be pruned?
· What mindfulness activities will nourish the health and fitness of my mind?
Until next week Ladies, keep sowing and keep growing!