Practice Mental Fitness

In the hurried pace of the world in which we live, most people are aware that maintaining a balanced life is difficult at times, but important for sustaining good health.

Perceptions about health are changing. The World Health Organization now defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being,” not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Within this context, fostering our mental health every day – not just when we are feeling pressured or unwell – is an important factor in our overall well-being.

Characteristics of good mental health include:

  • The ability to enjoy life
    Enjoying life can come from simple things like accepting that some things can’t be changed, having the confidence to change what you can, and having the ability to live in the moment and appreciate “now.” Focusing on the positive aspects of your life helps you enjoy it more.
  • Resilience
    Life can be full of tough times. It’s important to keep your perspective. One simple way to build resilience is to encourage yourself and others to learn from difficult times; you often emerge stronger. Try to exercise regularly and eat properly, even when life gets busy or stressful. Work on developing support networks of people who can help you through difficult times.
  • Balance
    Think about small ways to bring what you enjoy most into your life each week. A balanced life usually comes from a strong realization that there are many facets to your life that are important to you and deserving of your interest and attention. Making time for people you enjoy and engaging in activities that you like will help bring balance to your life.
  • Self-Actualization
    Everyone has strengths and talents. Nurture yours so that you can actualize your full potential. Make a plan to use your best abilities to enhance your life. Above all, value yourself and believe you’re worth caring for.
  • Flexibility
    Flexibility often comes from a sense that change is a fact of life. Accepting other points of view can help you adapt to these changes and make the most of your life and the people in it. Rigidity in opinions and expectations can create a strong sense of frustration and stress. Opening your mind to accepting differing viewpoints is a step towards developing flexibility.

Mental Fitness Tips

Focusing on building a healthy mind, body, and spirit is a positive, proactive, enjoyable way to equip yourself for the various challenges that life can bring.

Here are some simple ways to practice mental fitness:

  • Daydream
    Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a dream location. Breathe slowly and deeply. Whether it’s a beach, a mountaintop, a hushed forest, or a favourite room from your past, let the comforting environment wrap you in a sense of peace and tranquility.
  • “Collect” positive emotional moments
    Make it a point to recall times when you have experienced pleasure, comfort, tenderness, confidence, or other positive things.
  • Learn ways to cope with negative thoughts
    Negative thoughts can be insistent and loud. Learn to interrupt them. Don’t try to block them (that never works), but don’t let them take over. Try distracting yourself or comforting yourself if you can’t solve the problem right away.
  • Do one thing at a time
    For example, when you are out for a walk or spending time with friends, turn off your cell phone and stop making that mental “to do” list. Take in all the sights, sounds, and smells you encounter.
  • Exercise
    Regular physical activity improves psychological well-being and can reduce depression and anxiety. Joining an exercise group or a gym can also reduce loneliness since it connects you with a new set of people sharing a common goal.
  • Enjoy hobbies
    Taking up a hobby brings balance to your life by allowing you to do something you enjoy because you want to do it, free of the pressure of everyday tasks. It also keeps your brain active.
  • Set personal goals
    Goals don’t have to be ambitious. You might decide to finish that book you started three years ago; to take a walk around the block every day; to learn to knit or play bridge; to call your friends instead of waiting for the phone to ring. Whatever goal you set, reaching it will build confidence and a sense of satisfaction.
  • Keep a journal
    Expressing yourself after a stressful day can help you gain perspective, release tension, and even boost your body’s resistance to illness.
  • Share humour
    Life often gets too serious, so when you hear or see something that makes you smile or laugh, share it with someone you know. A little humour can go a long way to keep us mentally fit!
  • Treat yourself well
    Cook yourself a good meal. Have a bubble bath. See a movie. Call a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in ages. Sit on a park bench and breathe in the fragrance of flowers and grass. Whatever it is, do it just for you.
  • Recognize and honour your personality type
    Some people are energized by lots of busy social interactions, while others find them draining. Seek out situations where you feel recharged or energized. For one person, that may be participating in a stimulating conversation. For another, that may be sitting still in a quiet room with little or no distractions.
  • Just breathe
    When we are stressed, we don’t breathe as fully as we should. There are several breathing techniques we can learn to help us relax and recharge. Simply reminding ourselves to take some deep breaths in a difficult situation can create a pause in the tension and help us regain a sense of calm.