Changing the stigma related to mental health has been challenging in the past few decades and most experts would agree that using positive language can make a difference. Focusing on wellness and well-being goals and avoiding medical language is a good start. Physical fitness is a popular goal for people who want to get into shape, but people often neglect their mental fitness. Like physical fitness, this may require motivation and a bit of work.
According to a recent study conducted by a working group looking at the concept of mental fitness, the definition of mental fitness is “the modifiable capacity to utilise resources and skills to flexibly adapt to challenges or advantages, enabling thriving.” (Robinson., Oades, & Caputi, 2015). They propose that mental fitness can be improved in a similar way to physical fitness.
What can we do for mental fitness?
Mindfulness + Values + Action = Psychological Flexibility
The stronger your psychological flexibility is, the better able you are to tackle difficult thoughts and feelings. We can take control of our thinking patterns, using simple techniques such as:
Relating to thoughts in new ways: Identifying and challenging self-limiting beliefs and tough self-criticisms. Stop beating yourself up!
Confronting and dealing with intrusive feelings instead of suppressing them. Over time, difficult and intense feelings can build up and have an impact on psychological resilience: Talk to someone, write in a journal, contact a professional, read about communication skills to express yourself without conflict.
Observing the Self
Practice mindfulness tips to identify where you sit in the present – this can be about current feelings and thoughts.
Your personal values are yours alone and reflect your inner most identity. Your values help motivate you to take action in your life. Take stock: What do you value in your personal life? How have these values guided you to make important decisions? When was the last time you thought about this?
Make decisions based on your personal values and put together an action plan. Start small and keep trying. For mental fitness, consider what you have control over in your life at the current time, and what areas need attention.
Get more oxygen to your brain
Exercise for 30 minutes daily- even a brisk walk.
Do some crossword puzzles or jigsaws
Keep up the intellect and stretch out the memory. Keep your brain challenged.
And don’t forget, your health is your wealth. Physical fitness and mental fitness work in tandem. Make a plan to get fit, but don’t forget to take care of the inner you.
Dr Kim Fitzgerald
Senior Counselling and Rehabilitative Psychologist