You’ve been working out and eating healthy foods, and getting your physical body in shape. But if you haven’t also been paying attention to your mental fitness, you’re only covering part of your overall health.
Why is mental fitness so important to overall fitness? Without it, you may feel less motivated to take care of yourself, more likely to be sidelined or tempted by unhealthy choices, and not really experiencing the best that life has to offer.
After all, optimum health means living well every single day, and without your mental health, this is impossible. You’re also limiting your potential in the other areas of fitness, as each area works together to create a level of fitness that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Mental Fitness and What That Means
Being mentally fit just means that you are taking care of your mental and emotional needs. This can be anything from managing stress, anxiety, and depression, to getting enough sleep at night, to challenging the brain, to connecting with others. If you already exercise and eat nutritious foods, you have probably already noticed that your mental fitness has improved.
But there is much more that you can do to expand on this that will also help improve your physical fitness too. Adding the mental aspect puts you in touch with your body, creating a connection that is so essential in effective physical fitness and health. Here are just a few tips and techniques for improving your mental fitness.
Visualization is a technique for improving all areas of your life. By visualizing the things that you want in great detail in your mind, you are speaking to the subconscious. In this way, visualization helps to bridge the gap between your current reality and your desired reality by taking away the “I can’t” factor. If you visualize yourself achieving the unachievable, you’ll be hurdling your greatest obstacle: your own fears.
To practice visualization, you need just a few minutes a day. Sit down somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and picture yourself achieving your goal. Picture every detail imaginable, and really feel the emotions that rise up when you are successful in your mind.
For example, if your goal is to run a 5K, close your eyes and imagine yourself at the race. Picture exactly what you are wearing, what the weather is like, and the sounds of the other runners around you. Hear the starting bell and feel yourself begin to run. Imagine the excitement and adrenaline that you will feel. Finally, imagine what it feels like to hit the finish line with hundreds of people cheering you on. Feel the excitement and sense of accomplishment.
We’re all stressed out, right? Between kids and jobs and the demands of day to day life, stress can sneak up on us quickly. But stress is detrimental to our overall health and needs to be addressed. Relaxation is essential to stress management, and daily practice of relaxation techniques can really help this process.
Relaxing daily could just mean to make a conscious effort to unplug and find some solitude for just a short time each day. To take this one step further, you could take this time to practice deep breathing by closing your eyes, taking a long deep breath in with your lungs, then blowing it out slowly.
Even another step further would be the art of meditation. Meditation has helped me with anxiety more than anything else I’ve tried, including medication. If you’re worried that you don’t know how to meditate, don’t be. It’s a daily practice that you can make your own.
You can use meditation to visualize, or I close my eyes and try to empty my brain of all thoughts and just connect with the present moment. I listen to every sound, feel the energy of my body, feel every breath, and practice the art of releasing all of my thoughts as they present themselves.
It’s essential to our overall health and fitness to make connections with others. We need to laugh to reduce stress and release endorphins, we need to process our emotions by talking through them with others who will listen, and we need friendship and family connections to feel safe and loved.
You can also take connection a step further by reaching out to others in need by volunteering, performing daily acts of kindness, or just being there for others when they are in crisis. The intrinsic gratification that comes from helping others will rival no other, and you will feel good about yourself on the deepest of levels.
The biggest game-changer in my mental fitness has been practicing the art of daily gratitude. In relation to health and fitness, it keeps my perspective focused on how far I’ve come and how much I have achieved, rather than dragging me down the destructive spiral of lamenting my failures.
To practice gratitude, simply write 3-5 things down daily that you are thankful for. Release negative thoughts by just acknowledging them and the emotions behind them, and letting them dissipate into the universe. Embrace and feel thankful for everything good in your life, and you will actually be cultivating MORE good.
This blog isn’t big enough to contain all the good you could do for your mental fitness but here are just a few more ideas:
- take up a new hobby or learn something new – read here how to make exercise your playtime!
- perform memory exercises to stay sharp
- practice daily affirmations (“I am worthy of all good things and I accept myself unconditionally”)
- learn to adapt to change rather than fight it
- eliminate procrastination and the stress it causes by learning to just “do it now”
- find laughter daily by watching funny TV shows or movies, or laughing with others
- get outdoors and appreciate nature
- practice yoga
- learn to slow down and enjoy the beauty of every moment
- take a close inventory of your commitments and eliminate anything unnecessary
- love your work or find work that you love
- be creative
- learn to listen to your body and what it is telling you
What methods do you use to keep yourself mentally fit?