How many times have you worked out this week? 2/3 times? If I asked you why you worked out you might say, to improve my physical health, prevent disease etc.
If I asked you how many times did you work on your mental fitness this week? Would the answer be, what’s mental fitness? How do you give your brain a ‘workout’? This is despite the fact working on your mental fitness, can also prevent mental health issues. Think of the last time you walked up a steep hill, if you weren’t physically fit was your heart pumping? Were your muscles sore? Now exchange the steep hill for a challenge in life that you might be or could face. If you are not ‘mentally fit’ then you will feel a greater impact of that challenge on your mental health.
What is Mental Fitness
Mental fitness is defined as ‘the modifiable capacity to utilize resources and skills to flexibly adapt to challenges or advantages enable thriving.’ (Robinson et al 2015). Or put simply mental fitness helps us come alive and lead flourishing lives in the way we imagined.
According to Robinson et al (2015) Mental Fitness includes the following pillars:
- Endurance, by strengthening our resilience and our internal locus of control, we become more optimistic, positive and believe that our outcomes and actions are results of our own hard work. We develop a sense of mastery in the work we do and thrive when given the opportunity to work autonomously.
- Flexibility, this is our ability to focus our complete attention on our tasks at work and also being able to adapt and change quickly inline with the environment that we are in. Flexibility also involves self compassion, accepting our situation, understanding that it is part of being human, and recognising how we feel about it. It also recognising the difference between things that you can and cannot control.
- Relationships, this is knowing who are positive relationships are, and the daily activities that we need to do to nurture them. The reason for this is as we strengthen the quality of our social connections our levels of wellbeing also increase.
- Strength- otherwise known as our mental muscle or our psychological strength. This means that as individuals we focus on our strengths and what is good about ourselves leading to increased confidence and self belief, performance and wellbeing. We feel connected, and a sense of purpose as we understand our life goals and how they contribute to our work.
Why we need to focus on Mental Fitness in 2022.
As we now live in a VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world), we need to build and strengthen our mental fitness (in the same way we do our physical fitness) in order to flourish and navigate our everchanging landscape. When we are mentally fit we know we can take the time to pause and deal with any situation that comes our way, allowing us to interact with the world in a different way. We can measure our mental fitness in the same way we do our physical fitness which means we can also notice and see evidence that our mental fitness work is effective.
Can we really make a difference to our mental fitness?
Lyubomirsky and colleagues (2005) research demonstrated evidence known as the happiness pie that is illustrated below.
What this shows is that 50% of our happiness is genetic, 10% is down to our life circumstances but 40% of our levels of happiness and ultimately wellbeing can be altered by our own intentional activities. These intentional activities that aid our happiness and wellbeing will also help us to increase our mental fitness.
What are the benefits of increasing mental fitness:
- Being present, we become less distracted, increasing our concentration, focus and enjoy and appreciate every moment of our life.
- Self awareness, particularly when it comes to our ability to respond and not react. When we are mindful of our thoughts we can choose our response in a rationale manner. Responding this way impacts on our relationships and our overall positivity.
- Increased positive emotions, by reframing our thoughts in a way that is more optimistic. This allows us to be kinder and more compassionate to ourselves.
- Increased confidence and self efficacy, encouraging us to continue growing and developing new habits. The more we grow, the more habits we create, encouraging a greater belief in ourselves and our abilities. This leads to a continued upward spiral of positivity.
- The above benefits mean that no matter what challenges arise we are able to adapt to them and thrive.
We support individuals and organisations to develop and strengthen their mental fitness. If you would like to learn more about what we offer please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our next blog in two weeks time will give some practical ways to develop and strengthen your mental fitness.