We all have an idea of what it means to be physically healthy, but what does it mean to be mentally fit?
What is mental fitness?
Mental fitness can be defined as a state of well-being and having a positive sense of how we feel, think, and act. Similar to the rest of the body, the brain needs to be regularly ‘exercised’ in order to stay healthy. This might include managing our thoughts and emotions in a positive and supportive way; slowing down and decompressing, as well as completing daily mental dexterity exercises to help keep a sharper mind.
Without healthy mental practices, it can be easy for us to overwork, and overstress, which can lead to negative thoughts and behaviours. For some, these thoughts and behaviours can evoke feelings of sadness, worry, and anxiety, which can negatively impact a person’s mental health, declining their mental fitness.
However, through a number of mental exercises, you can help to improve your emotional health and strengthen your mind, enabling you to improve your mental fitness and manage how you think, feel, and act.
How do you become mentally fit?
Like any skill, to become mentally fit, it takes practice and patience. Luckily, these exercises can be performed anywhere, at any time. Below are some mental fitness tips and practices you can follow to increase your mental fitness.
Learn to say NO!
Many of us struggle to say no, whether it be taking on extra hours at work, meeting up with friends and family at the weekend or saying yes to insignificant favours. By agreeing to do these things when you don’t have the time, money or energy, you leave yourself at risk of stress, burnout and a decline in mental wellbeing.
Instead of automatically saying yes to others, tell them you need to check your schedule. This gives you time to fully process the information before letting them know what you want to do. Think about it: if you say no more, what things could you say yes to?
Just like the body needs time to rest and recover, the mind needs space to unwind and relax. This can be achieved through meditation. Meditation allows the mind to slow down, training us to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. Through meditation practice, you can learn to observe these emotions without judgment, while also engaging in breath exercises that can calm your mind and body.
Try new things
When you try new things like a different walk route or an earlier bedtime, the brain is forced to create new cells and connections in order to effectively process these changes. For example, there is no fear that you’ll get lost on your daily commute to work. But if you take a different route, you become more aware of your surroundings, taking in every detail of the journey. In short, breaking out of your routine can help keep your brain healthy. So, why not try something that’s typical for you but in a different way, like using your fork in the opposite hand.
Play some mind games
Playing games and figuring out puzzles can be a great way to train the brain as they employ logic, reasoning, and trivia, keeping the mind sharp. This includes working on crossword puzzles, playing board games and filling in the latest Sudoku problem in the paper. Even video games can improve your brains performance by increasing attention span, reaction time, and task-switching ability. So, next time you’re told to get off the X-box, tell them you’re exercising your brain!
Overall, mental fitness is about making new connections in the brain, through using the tips above or reading a book, learning a song, or simply focusing on your breath for 5-minutes. It’s about checking in with yourself, making sure that you’re okay. But most importantly, it’s about checking it out with a friend or doctor, especially if you’re concerned about your mental health and wellbeing.
In the meantime, test your Mental Fitness and see if you can figure out this brain teaser.
A man describes his daughters, saying, “They are all blonde, but two; all brunette but two; and all redheaded but two.” How many daughters does he have?
If you feel you need more support with your mental health and wellbeing, don’t hesitate to visit your local GP. If you need to talk to someone about anything at any time, contact the Samaritans at free call 116 123. You can also find lots more information on www.mentalhealthireland.ie and www.yourmentalhealth.ie