What is mental fitness?
I was listening to a podcast with Simon Sinek recently where he was talking about preferring the term ‘mental fitness’ to ‘mental health’ or ‘mental illness’.
And I’m SO in agreement.
So much work still needs to be done and so much still needs to change when it comes to the stigma attached to working on yourself and struggling for any period of time emotionally or mentally.
The idea that there’s something ‘wrong’ with you or fundamentally flawed or broken for experiencing things that are simply part of the human experience.
For having a bad day. A bad week. A bad month.
Struggling when something is going on in your life where it would ABSOULUTELY make sense for you to struggle, feel pain or challenging emotions.
Having what people may call ‘negative’ emotions.
Judging ourselves for experiencing anxiety, which at it’s core is our human alarm system and trying to alert us that something needs attention.
Managing reactivity and triggers.
Not being totally happy with where you’re at.
There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with you.
We simply haven’t been taught how to handle being a human a lot of the time.
This is why I’m so passionate about helping people shift the way they think about things.
Fundamentally shifting the lens that you look at life and yourself through.
Understanding why you the things that you do, or feel what you feel WITHOUT the judgement.
It’s the judgement piled on top of the emotions that makes everything feel so much worse.
The focus on concerns over being judged by other people, as if you need to hide something.
That it’s ‘bad’ or YOU’RE ‘bad’ if you experience it.
We’re taught it’s not ok to not be ok.
But also, let’s be honest, the judgement from yourself is usually way worse.
So, we work on our health and fitness when we realise it’s important in having a happy, long life right?
We might be more conscious of what we eat, move our bodies, and exercise.
Hopefully in a sustainable way that’s something we can easily incorporate into our day to day lives and we can create sustainable habits.
Not all or nothing.
Not beating ourselves into submission from the perspective of not being enough.
But either way, we’re praised for healthy choices, even when sometimes it’s to the detriment of other things.
We’re complimented for weight loss, even if it’s come through disordered eating.
We’re seen as ‘better’ in some way because we’re looking after ourselves.
So why doesn’t the same thing apply to our mental health and fitness?
I believe it’s starting to.
But the important shift is how we look at it on an individual level.
Society will catch up.
You need to start with the question, what does mental fitness look like to you?
Is it clear thinking and decision making?
Is it the ability to not beat yourself up for getting something wrong or having a down day?
Is it deciding to do what’s right for you in the moment in spite of self sabotage?
Mental fitness to me are the things that you consciously do that you know are good for you.
It’s actually utilising the knowledge that you can retrain and rewire your brain and that it will feel hard and clunky at first but the effort pays off.
It’s the ability to allow yourself a human moment and understand why it’s there, without the judgement.
What could it look like if you were consciously improving your mental fitness as well as your physical?
What if you treated those as the same thing?
Watching what you eat vs watching what you feed your brain.
Moving your body for your muscles vs moving your body to move stagnant energy and emotions through you and benefitting from those lovely endorphins.
Diet culture is, for the most part, inherently toxic. And unfortunately, the mental health space can be too. This is another reason I like to think of it as mental fitness.
When you’re working on your fitness levels specifically it’s not always just for aesthetic reasons.
It’s not as much extrinsic than it is intrinsic.
You’re doing it for different reasons than trying to lose weight.
That’s the way I choose to think of it anyway.
When I started working out I was doing it to have a better quality of life. To aid the health of my rickety arthritic knees. To FEEL better. To know my internal organs are healthier.
I’ve lost a stone and a half but as a nice side effect.
It wasn’t my explicit goal.
My goal was to be able to walk for longer than 30 minutes without having to pay for it for 3 days. I’m now up to 2.5 hours and only having to pay for it for about an hour after.
Do you see the difference?
Diet culture comes from a place of you not being acceptable or good enough as you are. That you have to look a certain way to be accepted and acceptable.
The mental health space can absolutely do the same.
Which is SO counter intuitive.
It can make you feel like if you’re not meditating for an hour, journaling for another hour, doing breathwork for 30 minutes, taking a cold plunge, doing yoga, getting out into nature, reading non-fiction for an hour, reading fiction for an hour, visualising, Heartmath every single day, and if you’re not…then you’re doing it ‘wrong’ and hey presto…guess what, you’re not good enough.
These concepts in and of themselves are all great things, they really are, I talk about all of them a lot.
But not about doing them at the expense of your life. And in all honesty as ironic as I know it sounds…not at the expense of your mental health!
And not as a tool to beat yourself up with.
It sounds EXHAUSTING right?
It sounds like a full time job in and of itself.
The bottom line is scientific studies have proven that even just a few minutes of a lot of these things is incredibly beneficial.
So to me, working on your mental fitness involves the discernment to be able to know, and do, what’s best and right for you.
I say it a lot and i’ll say it until the cows come home.
You have to find what’s right for you and you have to meet yourself where you’re at right now.
Sometimes that’s the ability to be able to say ‘actually, I need to do nothing right now’. But know it’s from a place of being what you need and not some form of self sabotage to reinforce negative feelings about yourself.
Mental fitness is the consciousness to listen to your mind and body and do what you NEED. Which will sometimes be the last thing you WANT to do.
For example, you’re having a bad day and you’re really in a funk. You don’t want to talk to anyone, do anything, leave the house. You KNOW that’s not making you feel any better.
You can listen to the part of you that wants to stay there knowing that it’s likely to make things worse.. Or you can consciously question why you might want to and what could be better for you and what you might need in that moment.
You manage to get yourself in the shower and go for a 15 minute walk and maybe even message a friend saying, ‘hey, I could use a little support right now, can you talk’.
Mental fitness is understanding you have choices, and what they are.
It’s knowing you’re good enough and you’re worthy even when you’re experiencing big emotions or having a bad day.
It’s categorically NOT about not having challenging and painful times, negative emotions, thoughts and feelings. It’s KNOWING you have the capacity to handle them and that they are temporary.
So how do you want to work on your mental fitness today?
Not what are you going to tell yourself you have to do every single day for 100 days or else you’re a failure.
What are you going to do to meet yourself where you’re at right now?
What could fit easily into your day and into your life?
How are you going to choose to consciously shift your thinking today?
You’ll find the more you do this the less reactive you are, the more quiet it becomes in your own head, the more positive emotions you’re able to identify, that the negative emotions hang around a lot less time, the more confidence you feel.
Remember we’re all just walking around following the path of least resistance. The thing we’ve rehearsed the most in our brain.
This is absolutely changeable and over time we totally shift and create new paths of least resistance. New autopilots that serve us much better.
You’re already doing better than you think.
Fran Excell, Success Mindset Mentor at www.franexcell.com – Helping Business Owners & Executives Overcome Stress & Self Sabotage so they can get back their time, get off the emotional rollercoaster and feel more in control.
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