My last post discussed Mental Fitness – what it is and why it’s important. The last few years have been challenging for many, not just in the U.S. but beyond. Pandemic fears, lockdown, adjusting to a “new normal” of working remotely while raising children, financial concerns, political uncertainty, apprehension about climate changes – the list seems to be endless.
The psychologist Adam Grant in 2021 began to speak of a trend he was seeing called languishing. It wasn’t a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety but it wasn’t flourishing in our lives either. It was more like the absence of full mental well-being – not functioning at our best, but merely getting by.
The last year has brought some relief in that the world has opened up again, the threat of Covid, while not extinguished, is not causing the intense anxiety it had been. Some workplaces are opening up, although others continue to be remote or are now hybrid. It seems we are getting back on the horse, so to speak, and yet there is still a nagging sense of uncertainty under the surface.
It’s no wonder that mental fitness seems to be an increasing topic of interest for adapting to this new normal.
Mental fitness is the power that can lead us back to improved performance and thriving. Just as in physical fitness, you can intentionally build your mental muscles to help you reach goals and achieve greater well-being.
There are many different ways to improve our mental fitness. Some of these are activities you may already have experience with or currently practice. All of the following examples can be included in daily life.
- Reading is good for the brain. It stimulates new learning and ideas and relaxes the brain at the same time. You can engage your mind on different subjects and genres and it’s unlikely you’ll ever run out of intriguing things to read!
- Physical activity. Physical exercise releases the mood-boosting chemicals endorphin and serotonin into your brain. It stimulates the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory and learning. It pumps blood to the brain resulting in improved cognition, and can help alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety. The physical benefits are well-known and, because of the mind-body connection, a healthy body stimulates a healthy brain and vice-versa.
- Meditate. Meditation calms the body, slows the breathing, and reduces stress and anxiety. It also helps with memory and increases the brain’s ability to process information. In a time where distractions seem to be the order of the day, it can help with improved focus.
A simple 5 minute meditation fits into any time of the day. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and spend five minutes quietly focusing on your breath. Many people say that they “can’t meditate” because they can’t quiet their minds. It’s normal for thoughts to enter the mind many times in a meditation, particularly in the beginning. Don’t be frustrated with a wandering mind – just quietly and calmly bring it back to your breath.
These are three simple ways you can improve your mental fitness starting today. In Part II, we’ll explore more ways you can begin to develop your mental fitness.