Monday, October 24, 2011

Mental Fitness

We hear a lot about fitness these days, mostly relating to physical fitness.  From weight training to jogging and walking, there is a whole array available.  Still, according to statistics, Americans are more unhealthy and physical unfit than ever.  I believe that the reason is that we are too much focusing on the external, physical parts of our lifestyles.  Here, I want to focus more on the internal aspect of fitness, fitness of the mind.  The mind is not just the brain.  The mind has three aspects: intellect, emotion and will.  Mental (inner) fitness has to include all three areas – the brain (thinking), the heart (feeling) and (good) action.

Intellectual Fitness

In regards to the brain we are concerned about our memory, the ability to make good choices, keep focus and concentration, and improve reasoning and cognitive skills.

Some people are hung up on their IQ.  So, how do we keep our brain flexible and alert?

* Play games like puzzles, SudokuTrivial Pursuit, Jeopardy, etc.

* Read – Reading inspires the imagination, memory and is just plain fun.

* Learn a new skill.  Learn a new language, play a different sport, learn public speaking.
* Telling stories.  Reflect on your life and share stories that will help with your memory.

* Be curious.  Explore a new way to work, be adventurous, eat new foods, listen to different genres of music, etc.
Emotional Fitness

Emotions are feelings we feel in response to someone or something.  The basic emotions are: acceptance, anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, love, sadness, and surprise.  There are five basic aspects to emotional fitness:

* Awareness – accept your feelings and appreciate yourselves.  Being grateful for what is.  Keep a balance of all aspects of mental fitness and center them on a higher purpose.

* Behaviour (self regulation) – Practice patience and trusting in the process of life.  Practice good habits. Keep a sense of humour in your live.  Taking yourself too serious can be dangerous.

* Motivation – keep hope alive through a religious practice; make reasonable goals and fulfil them. Work hard and then let go of the goal. 

* Empathy – practice kindness and put yourself in other people’s shoes.  Sometimes a smile and a friendly word is all that’s needed.

* Relationship skills – The most important aspect of emotional fitness are relationships.  All relationships start in the family.  It is the school of love and the training ground for emotional wellbeing. Practice giving and receiving and forgiveness and life will become more pleasant.

Willpower Fitness:

What is willpower?  It is the discipline to control yourself.  It is the inner power to make good decisions and carry them out.   It gives you the strength and conviction to take action and perform tasks and plans, despite inner resistance, discomfort, laziness or other difficulties. It puts you in charge of yourself and leads you to self-mastery.

The action part of mental fitness is creating a balance between the intellectual and the emotional.  It takes us into the physical part of life.

* Good nutrition; eating a healthy, balanced diet it crucial.

* Physical exercise and athletic abilities

* Start out with being willing to make better choices

* Helps to exercise self-discipline

* Have a clear focus

* Choose fun things; enjoy your task, and it will be easier to stick to it.

* Use repetition to strengthen your willpower muscles.

* Helps to prevent procrastination

* Prevents negative habits and avoids addictions

* Helps to forgo immediate gratifications and pleasures for the sake of bigger goals.

What it comes down to is this: Take care of you; take control of your life; take care of your mind.  It helps to practice gratitude and keeping a balance between the brain, the heart and the action.

What we are really looking for is the unity of these different functions of the mind.  The real power lies in the synchronicity which can only come when we center ourselves on the heart.  Once we achieve that in our mind, we can translate it into our body, and from there it can transform all aspects of life: the family, society, nation, and the world.  
That’s what practicing mental fitness is all about.

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