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Have You Been Neglecting Your Mental Fitness?

We talk a lot about physical fitness, yet mental fitness is often forgotten. However, mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness, and should not be neglected. The state of your mental fitness can actually affect the state of your body. As, the healthier your mind, the healthier your body.

Keep reading to learn what mental fitness is, why you should care about the state of your mental fitness, and how to become a mental fitness pro.

What is mental fitness?

Just like how physical fitness speaks to the ability of your body systems to work together to efficiently allow you to be healthy and perform daily activities, mental fitness refers to a state of mental well-being and a positive sense of how we think, feel, and act. Also, just like how your physical fitness can be impacted by family health history and environment, as can mental fitness. You are likely more prone to certain mental health conditions depending on your environment and family history. Luckily, similar to physical fitness, there are ways to strengthen your mental fitness in order to avoid or suppress such detrimental conditions.

Mental fitness is the process of keeping your emotional health and brain in tip-top shape. However, it’s not about acing an IQ test or training for the “brain Olympics”. Rather, mental fitness exercises work to better your state of well-being. The four components of mental fitness include:

  1. Emotional → self-esteem, resilience, self-acceptance, and the ability to manage emotions

  2. Social → friendship, relations with family members, support networks, enrichment to overall life

  3. Financial → low-stress levels due to money issues, feeling in control of finances, ability to handle financial setbacks

  4. Physical → regular exercise, a healthy diet, and proper sleep to reduce your risk of developing chronic illnesses

Working to improve your mental fitness will enhance your ability to cope with stress, improve physical health, boost productivity at work, improve relationships, and increase overall happiness.

How does mental fitness work?

To understand mental fitness, you must first have a grasp of how the brain works. Our brains carry thoughts through neural pathways. These pathways can be compared to ruts that have been created and reinforced over time. For example, if you’ve had the same morning routine for years, it probably feels like you’re operating on “autopilot”. The more times we repeat a thought pattern, the more enforced the neural pathway becomes, and the thinking becomes automatic.

And while sometimes, a daily routine can be good, automatic thinking has its drawbacks. Automatic thinking can sometimes cause us to react in unhealthy or unhelpful ways in some situations; this is because our reactions are based on these well-used neural pathways to past triggers. For example, if you’re stuck in a negative thinking loop, following automatic thinking will only trap you there for longer.

However, humans have the ability to rewire our brains out of such negative thinking traps, and that’s where mental fitness comes in. Just like how physical fitness can be used to build new muscles, mental fitness can help you to create or strengthen new, more beneficial neural pathways to better serve you.

Why care about mental fitness?

When you build mental fitness, you’ll build the ability to change how you react in certain situations. Mental fitness gives you the opportunity to stay calm, pause, and respond in a more beneficial manner, instead of relying on past reflexes of anger or frustration. Mental fitness will help you to feel more energized, confident, and resilient.

Building mental fitness also gives you the opportunity to lower symptoms of anxiety, burnout, depression, and stress. It can also help you to reduce tension throughout both your body and mind.

Other benefits of practicing mental fitness include:

  • Improved cognitive function → Mental fitness can boost your focus, time management, concentration, and communication skills. This will help to improve your personal and professional relationships.

  • Increased optimism and positive emotions → Being able to reframe and choose your thoughts and reactions will help to stimulate more positive emotions.

  • The ability to respond, instead of reacting → Allowing new neural pathways to take over automatic ones gives you the opportunity to choose a more rational, less emotional response.

  • Improved sleep → Just like physical fitness, mental fitness helps to contribute to better sleep quality.

  • Being present → Staying present in the moment will allow you to better listen, retain information, and not be sabotaged by distraction. This leads to a heightened enjoyment in life and better relationships.

  • More confidence → Being more optimistic throughout your life will also help to increase your relationship with yourself. As your self-efficacy and self-esteem increase, you’ll be able to focus more on your strengths.

How to gain mental fitness:

Luckily, it’s much less strenuous to gain mental fitness than physical fitness. No gym visits are required! Here are some ways to help increase your mental fitness:

  • Be positive with yourself → Positive affirmations are a great way to increase your mental fitness. When you talk more positively to yourself, you’ll strengthen the neural pathways that increase your self-confidence, well-being, and satisfaction.

  • Read more → Reading is one of the best exercises for mental fitness! Beyond the mechanics of processing words, reading helps you visualize the subject matter and imagine the voices in dialogue. In doing so, reading helps to ignite many different parts of the brain.

  • Stop multitasking → Contrary to popular belief, multitasking doesn’t actually allow you to get more things done at once. Instead, multitasking creates more problems than it solves. Try focusing on one task at a time to improve your concentration and productivity.

  • Try new things → New experiences can help set you on the pathway to mental fitness. Try new foods, new places, new ways to accomplish routine tasks, or new avenues to common places you go. Doing new, different things helps your brain to retain brain cells and connections, increasing your brain’s overall health.

  • Play games → Games like Sudoko, board games, and crossword puzzles are great ways to help strengthen your mental fitness. Video games are another great way to build brain muscles. Researchers have found tentative evidence that video games can increase reaction time, attention span, and task-switching abilities. But any game that tests your logic, trivia, and reasoning will help to build mental fitness.

  • Practice mindfulness → Mindfulness activities like guided imagery and meditation can help to create harmony between your mind and body. It’s a good way to relax, relieve stress, and reduce tension.

  • Sleep → By now, we should all know that sleep is just as vital to our health as breathing, eating, and drinking. It’s also necessary for maintaining good physical and mental health. Propper sleep will give you the energy required to build new neural pathways and increase mental fitness.

  • Journaling → Writing your thoughts and emotions in a journal can help you to prioritize concerns, fears, and problems. It also gives you the opportunity to track your moods and thoughts, which will help you recognize your triggers and learn how to control them.

Mental fitness is especially critical as you age, as it helps to maintain the health of your brain and body. Try scheduling in time for mental fitness, just like you do with your workout schedule.

For more information about optimal health at The Johnson Center, click here to contact us. Or, email our office at or call 276-235-3205, to set up your complimentary 15-minute discovery call with Dr. Johnson!

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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