Exercise and fitness are generally used in the context of physical activity, but did you know you can also exercise the brain? This is sometimes referred to as mental fitness.
Good mental fitness can help people manage the challenges of life and live in a more fulfilling way. By keeping the brain in good shape through physical exercise, a healthy diet, continuous learning, and other activities, you can experience decreased stress, emotional stability, and many other benefits.
What Is Mental Fitness?
Mental fitness is the ongoing effort to keep the brain agile and resilient. Strong mental fitness can impact your psychological, social, and emotional well-being.
According to an article written by a clinical psychologist, mental fitness doesn’t address only one aspect of mental health, but comprises four essential components:
- Emotional fitness: Recognizing and managing overwhelming emotions
- Social fitness: Building and maintaining healthy relationships to foster belonging and connection
- Financial fitness: Understanding and managing finances to decrease stress and anxiety
- Physical fitness: Understanding that physical health directly impacts mental well-being
Mental fitness takes a holistic approach with these interconnected components to promote a resilient, flourishing mindset.
Why Does Mental Fitness Matter?
Mental fitness can increase mental strength, flexibility, and endurance. It can help you face life’s challenges, adapt to changing circumstances, and build resilience against stressful situations.
These key traits of mental fitness can lead to the following benefits:
- Decreased stress and a more relaxed, balanced state of mind
- Emotional stability that allows for better management of life’s ups and downs
- Improved brain function for better focus, memory, and concentration
- Better decision-making and productivity to contribute meaningfully to personal endeavors
- Improved mood that leads to a brighter outlook on life
- Prevention of anxiety, burnout, and depression to protect overall well-being
Tips for Improving Mental Fitness
Activities that contribute to better mental fitness might look different for each person. For some, consistent physical exercise will be enough. For others, a focus on nutrition and meditation creates the perfect combination. It’s about finding the routine that works best for you.
If you’re not sure where to start, consider the following activities for improving mental fitness:
Stay physically active.
Several studies highlight the positive connection between physical exercise and mental health. Exercise can improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and negative moods. It can also alleviate low self-esteem and social withdrawal.
Physical activity doesn’t just mean strenuous exercise. It can be anything from walking to gardening to taking the stairs. Every movement counts, as long as the activity is consistent.
Lead a healthy lifestyle.
A balanced diet and good sleep habits are core tenets of a healthy lifestyle. Diets that are low in carbohydrates and rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, and unsaturated fats promote an overall healthier life. Experts recommend that adults sleep between 7-9 hours a night.
Exercise your brain.
Keep your mind engaged by reading, taking classes, exploring new interests, and challenging yourself with puzzles, crosswords, or memory-training exercises. These activities can also elicit a sense of curiosity. One study found that memory performance was higher for topics that participants were more excited to engage with.
Engage in mindfulness and meditation.
Meditation and mindfulness focus on bringing awareness and attention to the present moment, allowing the meditator to observe thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.
Meditation is a relatively simple practice, but can be awkward at first. Although it may take time to get comfortable if you’ve never tried it before, sitting in meditation for 10 minutes in the morning or evening each day provides many benefits, including a sense of calm and mental clarity.
Practicing gratitude can take different forms, such as keeping a daily gratitude journal, expressing gratitude to others, or taking a moment each day to reflect on the positive aspects of life. Practicing gratitude can significantly benefit physical and psychological health.
Mental Fitness for a Balanced Life
One word that works well to help illustrate mental fitness is “balance.” Staying social, exercising, eating a healthy diet, sleeping enough, and enjoying peace of mind contribute to a well-balanced life.
What contributes to your sense of balance? Read about The 5 Pillars of a Balanced Life to see how they match your understanding of a balanced life.