Mental fitness is a skill we can all learn and strengthen. High levels of mental fitness help us surf the waves of life with greater clarity, ease and happiness. Do you find yourself hijacked by negative feelings such as self-doubt, anxiety, stress and procrastination regularly? It may be time to increase your mental fitness levels. In this blog, I’ll share:
What is mental fitness?
Why mental fitness is important
3 ways mental fitness can help you thrive
What Is Mental Fitness?
Mental fitness is our ability to thrive and flourish despite the challenges and external circumstances that we may be experiencing.
To explain mental fitness better, let’s explore the left and right brain regions. I appreciate I’m oversimplifying here. However, it’s important to me to make complex ideas and information accessible to all people.
All of our negative emotions stem from the left brain: avoidance, stress, anxiety, self-doubt, discontent, procrastination etc. It’s where our sabotuers live. In neuroscience, this is the survival/limbic part of the brain.
Saboteurs are universal, we all have them. Some of them are with us when we are born, and others form and develop in our childhood as a way for us to survive and protect ourselves. When we experience challenges in our lives, with people and/or circumstances, it’s these saboteurs that hijack our thoughts and lead us down paths that don't serve us.
The right brain is where all of our positive emotions live: joy, peace of mind, creativity, empathy, compassion etc. This is the pre-frontal cortex part of the brain. It’s where our wise sage lives and again, is universal to all of us.
The right brain, wise sage is often overpowered and drowned out by the over-active left brain dragons. Especially, during times of change, uncertainty and stress.
Mental fitness is our ability to intercept and discredit the saboteurs and their stories in the moment. And develop and strengthen our sage muscles. Doing this, helps us tap into our deeper knowing and wisdom, by harnessing our right brain/pre-frontal cortex and choosing to respond in a way that serves us instead of sabotaging us.
To illustrate this, let me share a personal example from my life. Perhaps some of you may be able to relate to my story. During the pandemic, I experienced redundancy. When it happened, it would have been easy for me to slip into feelings of ‘oh woe’, and that I was failing. I could’ve brought into the stories of my left brain saboteurs:
“I’m not good enough” (self-doubt, shame)
“What will I do now?” (fear, panic, anxiety)
“Why me?” (helplessness)
I could’ve felt down and depressed.
I could’ve stayed in the negative and unhelpful feelings for far too long.
Wasting time and energy by blaming myself, other people and/or my circumstances.
However, because of my daily commitment to a mental fitness practice, I was able to notice these feelings. Honour and release them, and choose to move from ‘oh woe’ to ‘oh wow’, quicker than I had done previously when experiencing setbacks/challenges.
My ‘oh wow’ right-brain feelings led me to be curious and explore my options.
I chose to invest my time in learning to further develop grow my coaching skills.
I chose to lean into creativity by offering 1:1 coaching and workshops to people worldwide.
And, I chose to follow the path of self-compassion and empathy by taking time to tend to myself, and nurse my sister back to health after a big operation.
My mental fitness practice helped me shift my perspective, and choose an empowering path forward aligned with my future goals and vision.
Why Is Mental Fitness Important?
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to change, in response to new experiences. Our brains carry thoughts along neural pathways. These pathways are like ruts that we create and reinforce over time. Think of them as your brain’s ‘habits’. When we repeat a thought pattern many times, that neural pathway gets reinforced. It becomes a well-worn path in our brain.
Sometimes, these thought patterns can make us react in ways that aren't helpful. Instead of reacting to the current situation, we take well-worn paths to past behaviours. It’s as if we were taking our usual route to work, taking the same exit on autopilot — when we were meant to exit somewhere else.
As we build our mental fitness, we have the awareness, strength, and agility to identify options. We can choose another route instead of responding automatically. Improving mental fitness is good for our brain’s neuroplasticity, which benefits our emotions and memory.
Automatic thinking comes from our left/limbic part of the brain. It’s constantly scanning the environment for threats. We inherited the limbic system from chimps and it can protect us. But, left unchecked, it can give rise to thoughts, feelings and actions that don’t align with our values and our goals.
The good news is that we can reprogram our brains. With the same kind of practice that we use to build muscle, we can create neural pathways that better serve us. This is an essential skill when we’re venturing into the unknown e.g. changing careers.
3 Ways Mental Fitness Can Help Us Thrive In Life, Work And Relationships:
1. Increases Resilience
Resilience is our capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Building mental fitness gives us the ability to bounce back from challenges quickly and perceive them as opportunities to learn and grow. This is an essential trait in the current volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world that we find ourselves in.
2. Regulates Emotions
Emotional regulation is the ability to exert control over our emotional state. It involves re-thinking a challenging situation to reduce anger or anxiety, hiding visible signs of anger or fear, or focusing on reasons to be happy, calm and content. Again, an essential trait especially in the workplace. We’ve all been around someone at work/home whose emotional responses negatively impact other people.
If you find yourself feeling triggered by an overbearing, micromanaging boss or an annoying relative/co-worker, chances are you find it difficult to regulate your emotions.
2. Creates Self-Control and Agency
When we have stronger mental fitness muscles we choose to respond differently in highly challenging and stressful situations. We’re better equipped to bypass the well-worn paths of the brain and make choices aligned with ways that serve and support us and our relationships.
Mental fitness gives us agency to make wise decisions that lead to increased self-belief, self-confidence and self-trust. It also leads to better relationships and healthier boundaries with people, work and other areas where we might lack self-control (I’m looking at you chocolate!)
When you’re mentally fit, you will meet challenges feeling positive, energised, motivated and from a place of self-control.
Understanding, managing and caring for our minds, is a skill. Sadly, not a skill we are taught at school. However, like any skill, mental fitness is a skill that can be developed and strengthened over time.
I help people build their mental fitness, with as little as 15 minutes of daily practice. Think of me as a personal trainer for the mind. In the mind gym, we get to flex and strengthen our mental muscles, minus the lycra (unless you want to)!
Testimonials from women who completed my 6-week mental fitness course:
“I am generally in a state of calm and happiness the majority of the time. This has impacted my family life too and I feel my children are happier as a result. I am able to catch negative emotions emerging a lot faster and reject them so I am not hijacked by them - even if I am, I bounce back within minutes or a couple of hours as opposed to days and weeks lingering in feeling awful. I am growing to love myself again because the negative self-talk has minimised. I value who I am as a person and my self-worth. Consequently, I have set numerous boundaries (some unknowingly) to fuel my happiness and my goals in a better way. Doing so is allowing me a better work-life balance and I am not berating myself for things like ‘not doing enough.”
“LIFE CHANGING - I never ever would have imagined that in such a short amount of time that I would feel like I have achieved so much. The safe environment and community that Sadia created made the process so much easier, as it is testing at times. The journey I have been on has been mind-blowing and by taking the time to focus on the skills I have learnt - it will continue to shape my life into being one full of happiness, love and success.”
Ready to Build Your Mental Fitness Levels?
Join my 6-week mental fitness course. An intimate and supportive environment to help you create new ways of thinking and being, so you can move towards a calmer, more confident you.
The next group coaching course starts on 26th March 2022.
Investment is £575