We have been giving physical fitness a whole lot of thought lately. Rightfully so, especially as lifestyles start to get more sedentary. Mental fitness, however, isn’t as widely spoken about. Perhaps because we assume it to be a default state and anything less than that is still looked upon with disdain. The fact is that an unfit mind has far-reaching consequences. Including but not limited to our physical health, financial and career prospects, relationships, and family, and more.
The good news is that there’s a lot you can do to support your mental faculties. As they say, the mind is a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Clearly then, rituals that help with our mental wellbeing need to find a way into our daily routine! Here are some thoughts that could help to keep your mental and emotional health in good shape:
It is said that a fit mind lives in a healthy body. The first thing to do of course is to appreciate this mind-body connection. Sticking to a physical exercise regimen can not only keep you in good shape but also help with the release of mood-raising endorphins. In fact, if exercise were available as a pill, it would have been heavily prescribed for stress diffusion. Go ahead and burn off your stress hormones with that run or dance regimen!
Now, this may seem counterintuitive to the lesson of being efficient that we have been taught so far. The fact, however, is that multitasking besides not being very efficient is known to have many other ill effects such as:
Instead, focus on one thing at a time to be far more productive and less stressed!
Meditation is not just a great stress reliever but also helps build resilience to stress. Incorporate simple breathing exercises into your daily schedule for that calming influence and a fit mind. Visualization is also another great technique to achieve a relaxed state of mind. Essentially, it involves using soothing mental imagery to allow you to bring in a sense of calm. Visualize that mountainside or the white sandy beach in all its details and let the serenity take away all the accumulated anxiety.
Simply put, mindfulness involves training our minds to stay in the present moment. Just as through exercise we are training our body, through the practice of mindfulness we can train the mind to build its muscle, especially that of attentiveness. You could inculcate this practice by sitting still and focusing on your breath. It goes without saying that in the early days you will find your thoughts running amok; all you need to do is gently bring your mind back to the task at hand. Over time you will notice how this training goes a long way in keeping you firmly rooted in the present moment as you find yourself not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
Build that mental muscle and give your brain the much-needed workout through games and exercises that activate your neural circuits. Spend some time putting a jigsaw together, playing Sudoku, or solving a crossword. Word games could help you build your left brain, while mazes and jigsaw puzzles can strengthen the right brain. That you will have a whole lot of fun and doing it is an added perk!
Open yourself up to new experiences- whether it is trying new food, travelling to new places, learning a new language, or mastering a new skill. Studies have found that such activities can stimulate new connections between nerve cells and may even help the brain generate new cells.
Reading is known to engage a host of brain functions- be it maintaining concentration or improving memory. Read your way to ward off overall mental decline including conditions such as dementia and even Alzheimer's. Not that you needed any reason to curl up with your favourite book, but there are enough and more reasons to pick up your next read.