Mental fitness is the same as physical fitness but for your mind. Mental fitness enables you to adapt to change, stay calm in challenging situations, manage your emotions, inhibit impulsive responses, and shift from negative to positive emotions quicker. Mental fitness helps you think clearly, manage stress, build happier relationships, and respond to life challenges in a healthy way.
The more you experience positive emotions (peaceful, excited, uplifted, inspired, energised, empowered, proud, loved, grateful, lucky, blessed, etc.) and the less you experience negative emotions (upset, angry, irritated, frustrated, disappointed, stressed, anxious, guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, regretful, worried, fearful, doubtful, lonely, unworthy, contemptuous etc.), the happier you live.
If you often feel stress and anxiety or tension in your body or experience negative emotions such as frustration, anger, disappointment, guilt, shame, embarrassment, or worry, your mental fitness is not great.
Most of your physical health issues could be a byproduct of negative emotions. You don't have to be in crisis to invest in your mind. Mental fitness will prepare you for your challenges.
The main elements of mental fitness are mind diet and mind blocks. The following Mental Fitness Triangle shows that YOU are the leader of your life, and everything comes down to your choice to be healthy and happy. You can improve your mental wellness by enhancing your mind diet and weakening your mind blocks. At the core of this triangle is constant mind practice.
Like physical fitness, you need a good diet for your mind, which I call a mind diet. At the core of your mind diet are mindfulness, thoughts (the way you think), words (the words you use), and Gratitude; a healthy diet also will include Love and Intimacy, being social, active and having Fun, Contribution, Learning & Growth:
Mindfulness: Practise mindfulness to clear your mind, quiet the voices in your head, be present in the moment, connect with your body and emotions, and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness practices strengthen your mind, helping you self-regulate your thoughts and feelings and shift from negative to positive emotions quicker. Mindfulness practices enhance your most crucial brain’s executive function to pause, wait, delay impulsive responses, and inhibit immediate urges, so-called “think before you act” ability.
Good Thoughts: Intentionally feed your mind with good thoughts, dreams, and images. Your thoughts are powerful and shape your attitude, character, choices, and identity. Your thoughts, dreams and images in your mind manifest themselves when persistently repeated. Your thoughts have energy. If you think positively or negatively about a person, they will feel it from your body language and tone. Your thoughts affect your interactions and relationships. Practise feeding your mind with good thoughts. The more you practice, the more you increase your powers of empathy, curiosity, innovation, creativity, decisiveness, and can-do attitude. Your beliefs heavily impact your mindset and the way you think. Limiting beliefs is a significant barrier to creating positive energy.
Good Words: Intentionally feed your mind with good words. Words are powerful and carry energy. The language and words you choose affect your responses, relationships, and feelings and manifest in your future. Choosing positive words when you whisper with yourself is the most critical. How you talk with yourself in your mind shapes how you interact with others. Practise using good words in your language.
Gratitude: Be grateful for you, others, and all the blessings of your life. Gratitude is the memory of your heart. Gratitude is proven to have several benefits for mental and physical health. It can help to reduce stress, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and strengthen relationships. Gratitude can also allow us to cope with difficult times and to find meaning in our lives. The most potent form of gratitude is expressing your appreciation in words, either by writing or voicing them out loudly. For example, write your gratitude on a birthday card to a loved one. Or, look into the mirror and thank yourself for all your efforts during the day. Or, thank your partner for being next to you.
Love and intimacy: Build a loving relationship with an intimate partner. Love is our primary need. Finding a partner might be challenging, but it's worth the effort. Don't give up on dating and relationship failures. A loving partner beside you significantly impacts your happiness, well-being, and contentment.
Social: Build loving family relationships or close friendships. Humans are social by nature. Connection is one of our primary needs. Make time for your family and friends. Make extra effort in building deeper and closer relationships with your family and friends. Educate yourself in finding friends, connecting with others, and learning to develop solid relationships.
Fun: Being active and having fun release endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Regular exercise, going out and doing fun activities with friends are great ways to improve your mental and physical fitness.
Contribution: Contribute to your community, family, friends, and colleagues. Helping others and giving back to our community can give us a sense of purpose and meaning in life. A sense of purpose will boost your energy.
Learning and Growth: Learn something new. Learning new things keeps your mind active and engaged, gives you a sense of purpose, and is energising. Read a book or article on your favourite subject for at least 15 minutes daily.
Here are the main mind blocks sabotaging our happiness. Bear in mind that all the following are the strategies of our intuitive mind in overcoming life challenges. These strategies are helpful; however, when taken too far, they become a need in our mind, which will have a reverse effect and become barriers to our happiness and success.
Perfectionism: Being a perfectionist is a high need for perfection, order, organisation, achievement, a fear of failure, and a tendency to set unrealistic expectations. Perfectionists often put a lot of pressure on themselves and others to succeed, and they may be critical of themselves and others when they don't meet their high standards. Perfectionism is a source of stress, anxiety, anger, unfulfilment, and negative emotions.
Control: Being a controller is a high need to be in charge and control everything to an unnecessary degree. Controllers often struggle to let go of minor things and cannot delegate tasks, which will put pressure, stress and anxiety on themselves and others.
Avoid: Being an avoider is a fear of dealing with difficult situations, people, or tasks, leading to procrastination until a crisis point. Avoiders may miss out on opportunities, have difficulty achieving their goals, and experience chronic stress and anxiety.
Please: Being a pleaser is a high need to be liked and accepted by others. Pleasers constantly strive for acceptance, approval and affection from others. Pleasers often have difficulty saying NO and setting healthy boundaries. They often allow others to cross their boundaries. It causes misplaced priorities and actions aimed at pleasing others. People pleasers may have low self-esteem or insecurity and fear of rejection or disapproval.
Victim: Being a victim is a high need for sympathy and attention by showing pain, loss, and sorrow. The victim is emotional and temperamental, focusing on painful feelings and distorted amplification of negative emotions, which alienates others.
How to keep your mind fit?
If you want to be a great tennis player, is it enough to study tennis? Is it enough to attend seminars and events about tennis?
If you want to be physically fit and strong, is it enough to have excellent knowledge of your body? We know the answer is: "NO, You need to practice".
Gaining knowledge and insight by reading books and attending inspiring events is excellent, but you need more than just insight to feel happy and fulfilled.
Keeping your mind fit and healthy requires constant attention and daily practice. Like physical fitness, you need a healthy diet and daily exercise. For mental fitness, your mind needs a healthy mind diet and daily mind practice. Like your physical body, as soon as you stop exercising, you start getting out of shape. Fitness and well-being require constant care. Your mind is the same. You must maintain your mind diet and mind practice to stay healthy and happy. Continuous care and daily practice is the key message here.
Mindfulness and the abovementioned mind diet are primary elements in maintaining your mental health, fitness and well-being.
Also, there are many practices to weaken your mind blocks, such as:
Mindfulness in action embedded in daily routines
Intercept your impulsive judgement
Connect with your emotions
Identify your triggers
Practice letting go
Increase your power of empathy, innovation, curiosity
Inhibit impulsive responses
Catch your mind blocks
Boost your energy
and many more
A good mind diet and daily mind practice will boost your happiness and success to a whole new level, bringing you joy and fulfilment in your relationships, parenting and career.
This article may give you some information, insight, and tips, but you need daily practice to maintain and improve your well-being.
Take a free Mind Self-Assessment and receive a report about your mental fitness and well-being.
Author: Nima Sedigh, Founder of Mind Practice