Mental Fitness

It is amazing to me. . .
Our body and the way it works. The millions of things happening at once, the heart beats while the lungs breathe and the brain is always churning. We are a constant phenomenon. We are made up of flesh, blood, bone and brains. All of these things we have, which we inherently have; all of which we own from blood to bone are all things that require care and attention. Our body needs care. We need the proper fuel. We need air to breathe, plus food and water.

The body is always on the move. We create 120 million blood cells every minute. Our eyes interpret sight. We blink. We heal. We literally create miracles on a minute by minute basis. We blink and we choose, we stand and we walk. The body is truly an incredible thing.

Our brain is a home to so many things. This is where the mind owns its real state. This is where the mind processes and thinks. This is where we have our idea machines and thought factories. This is where we keep our cognitive and non-cognitive warehouses and where the memory bank has its vaults, where the anxiety machine and the war-rooms intertwine. This is where dreams come from and nightmares too. This is where the mind develops and grows. This is where our personal and interpersonal skills come from. The mind is truly incredible but yet, the mind is also partial and susceptible to deception.

We have biases that are based on experiences. We have memory, which can often be misleading or inaccurate and even lie to us. Our mind is our interpretation. Yet, same as the idea works about the food we eat and the energy we consume, the mind is no different. The way we spend our time thinking about wasteful ideas or reconnecting our past tensions to present situations leads to a direct result of more of the same. 

The secret to the reason why history repeats itself is here in the mind. And put simply, the same as we say, “You are what you eat,” it is also true to say, “You are what you think.”

As a result of our interpretations, what we think leads to how we feel. Our thinking connects us to years of old data and past calculations that we believed were somehow pertinent to our life. Think of all the things that have happened in our lifetime. Think of the experiences that we’ve filtered through the mind. Think of all the collected data, which we would love to toss away but no, not the mind. No, the mind is a hoarder. It saves everything. Remember the time you were humiliated in front of a group of people. Well, don’t worry, the mind has all the details on its hard drive. The mind stores all the data of everything we’ve lived through and files it away somewhere in its cluttered abode. Remember your first real heartbreak or the very first time you experienced the sting of rejection?
Don’t worry. The mind has this filed somewhere. Only, nothing like this is really filed alphabetically. No, files are mixed up and misconnected with other critical or crucial details that change the face of what really happened. We mistake facts from feelings, which leads to an altered interpretation of what actually happened. 

The mind is truly an incredible thing. We can learn. We can create. We can reason and overcome obstacles and determine the difference between safe and unsafe patterns. We can learn skills. We can retain pathways of thinking and patterns of behavior. We can remember things. We can learn to endure the most unendurable things. We can nurture. We can love. We can care and comfort. As humans, we can figure out secrets of the universe and land a man on the moon or explore new ways to get to Mars. But yet, we can’t seem to address the most important complications we have in this world, which are all based on the mind’s mental health and mental health challenges.

As a person with interest, I have been doing my own research on the mind and the complications that come from the thought machine. I have reached out to others that share similar and different challenges to learn what has worked for them. As well, I learned what hasn’t worked for them.

I have sat through long winded speakers and long classes that look to teach about mental health and the challenges we face. I listened to their big flowery words and the superfluous lectures that seem to ramble on and on with no real meat to the bone. Nothing is simplified enough to turn on the mental light, as if to say, “Ah-ha!” I get it now. I have read through different literature that over-explains or complicates the simple questions we have, which seemed like nothing else but wasteful to me.

Bottom line is the question of all questions, which is simple:
How do I feel better?
Isn’t that all we want? Isn’t this what everyone wants?
How do we feel better?

How can we change the chemical reactions in our body that lead us to our emotional responses? If physical fitness helps improve the body physically, what kind of mental fitness exercises can help us improve mentally?

First, it is important to understand the obvious which is that the physical and mental do affect one another. If we don’t look our best, how can we feel our best? If we see ourselves as physically unsightly then how does this translate to the mind? If we believe we are worthless then how do we treat our body? What connections does this lead to the hoarder upstairs (AKA: The Mind) that literally saved every insult we’ve heard and every insecurity we’ve learned.

Exercise and diet is the key to good health. We all know this. We have been taught about physical fitness since early grade school in gym class. Yet, even with all the knowledge we have, with all the facts we have about how to eat healthy and live a healthy life somehow we seem to forget this when it comes to our personal lives. The questions of “How” or “What” and “Why” are common even when the answers are simple and right there before our eyes. However, when we don’t feel well or when we are not at our best even the simple tasks can become difficult.

Therefore, start simple. Start with the closest, most available option. Give yourself some room to expand. By this I mean allow yourself the permission to make the decision to make your improvements.
Mental and emotional fitness is important.
But what does this mean? If being mental and emotionally fit are the keys to personal success then how does one achieve it? What is self-care? “What do I do?” and “Where do I start,” are common questions that are also followed with one deeply-seeded concern which is “Does any of this really work?”

The answer is obvious. The answer is yes, but yet somehow the question is bigger than the answer. Somehow, the thought machine needs to get passed the aches and strains of our previously habitual ways. We can start by practicing a new internal monologue. We can practice a new navigation that takes away from old ways of thinking and responding. We can learn ways to change the internal narrative to a more helpful supportive voice.

We can create beneficial outlets. We can find a sense of purpose by trying new things or revisiting old dreams that we previously abandoned before the root grew and flowered. We can create a team of people in our life that will become a healthy circle of influence because, and put simply, we tend to take on the influence of our surroundings. Therefore, create a source of positive influence and thus, the positive influence takes effect. This needs to be done carefully because positivity can sting if we are not around comfortable people. Our team has to consist of people we can talk to and accept direction from. Our team needs to be patient and tolerant as well as we need to be the same with our team.

Allow time. Give yourself a moment to entertain self-care and mindfulness. Learn ways to alleviate the stress of distractions that would otherwise dispirit us or take away our energy. Take walks. Take a drive. Take a minute or better yet, take whatever it takes to help yourself in a positive way. And keep in mind that quick fixes only fix things quickly. At this point, to reach a better level of awareness and overall health, we need to think long-term by creating short term goals that result in both daily and long-term achievements. 

On a personal note, I have never been a “Gym guy” so-to-speak but I do know what it feels like to exercise and feel sore. I remember hearing (and I’m not alone in this one either) that some people suggest the pain is the addictive part. In fairness, I’ve been addicted to things before. I feel that I would have no struggle kicking the physical pain that comes from being sore after working out.

However, I can say that once we get over the hump and once we start to see and feel the results, the rewards are absolutely incredible. Once we help the mind clean house and once we learn to solve the problem of mental hoarding by replacing thought with action, learning about mindfulness and when we learn our ability to heal is literally the most incredible thing in the world – the next step is really an incredible process.

My favorite suggestion when it comes to emotional fitness is taken from a quote from St. Francis.
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you’re doing the impossible.”
And to me, there is no better feeling than this.
To me, when depressive thinking hits or the anxiety machine overloads and I overcome this to do the impossible, somehow, suddenly, I am empowered. 

And for me, that’s amazing.

See what I mean about the lessons we learn?

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