It’s plastered everywhere now. Thanks to the power of social media and improving tolerance, you’d have to be living underneath a rock to not know that having good mental health is equally as important (if not more) than having good physical health. The two are synonymous when we talk about leading a well balanced lifestyle.
By now, everybody knows what it takes to be physically fit. Regular exercise, paired with a healthy diet ought to do the trick. I would consider myself in the realm of being physically fit. I exercise regularly, though I vow I’ll never take pics of myself flashing my ripped biceps or sexy calves in front of a mirror. There’s enough dudes out there posting those kind of pics, and the last thing the world needs is another one flexing his bod seeking social approval. Ironically, my healthier self-esteem reminds me I don’t need to do that. Being physically fit doesn’t have to be someone who walks around looking like John Cena. Physical fitness is just one aspect of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
What about being mentally fit? What does that mean? What does that look like for you? I spend a lot of my me time practicing to be stronger in my mental health. Self-awareness has been my favorite workout. While driving, stuck in traffic, I’ll take the opportunity to do some mental exercises recognizing when I’m feeling stressed, then finding ways to self-soothe. That’s also a time when I might have negative thoughts (ie. Who the fuck caused the accident? I’m going to be late! Damn, I really want to honk the horn and go total ape-shit right now.) It’s a great opportunity to do a quick 30 second practice of self-awareness. I slow my thoughts down, re-frame them and soon my irritability level drops from a 10 to a manageable 3 or 4.
If I’m feeling a little blue at home, the same can be done for a great mental workout. Recognizing depressing thoughts and grounding myself to the present takes mindfulness. It takes commitment. In short, practicing my self-awareness skills takes mental discipline. I’m not going to lie. It’s so much easier to just give into negative thought patterns, sit in front of the couch over a tub of double fudge chocolate chip ice cream.
Just like going to the gym for your physical fitness, it’s easy to just cave in and do what’s easiest, which is nothing. Or we can train ourselves to get better both mentally and physically when opportunities arise.
Here’s some other places/times when I get a good mental workout:
- Lining up at the grocery store. While I’m waiting, I practice being present. Instead of getting worked up over a slow moving lineup, I’ll spend 20-30 seconds focused on being present. I look at my surroundings. I observe colors and pay attention to the sounds. Soon enough, it’s my turn at the checkout.
- Cooking dinner or doing other chores. I love to multi-task. I feel I can get things done quicker but there’s a price to pay if I multi-task too much. My thoughts can run wild, fueled with anxiety to hurry up and get things done, so I can move on to the next task. Here’s a great time for another 20-30 second mental workout. I slow things down significantly. I try not to think about time. I focus on completing my present task, and maybe even find ways to enjoy it more (ie. listening to music, or watching a video at the same time.)
- Any other time I’m alone. If you’re a parent, alone time is gold. I love going to my favorite coffee shop on weekend mornings while my son is still asleep. I do a lot of writing, reading and planning for my upcoming book. In between moments, I love listening to the sounds inside the coffee shop. I pay attention to what my mind is telling me. If there’s anything negative, again, I slow them down and remind myself to reshape those beliefs. I watch people walk by and observe how beautiful the world is.
Mental fitness isn’t a new buzz word I’m creating. We all talk about having good mental health, but let’s not forget how we get there. Remember to get your mental workout in. Combined with regular physical activities, you’re well on your way to balanced lifestyle.