While your brain is hard at work 24 hours a day, it still might not be mentally fit.
“It’s just like flexing your biceps”, says Positive Psychology Institute managing director Dr Paula Robinson. “If you’re physically healthy, you may not be physically fit. And you might be mentally healthy – that is, you may not have a mental illness – but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily mentally fit.”
We know our bodies need regular movement and challenges to become fitter, and the same goes for mental fitness. “What you do every day, how you think, what habits and practises you have in place and the way your self-awareness and self-management is crafted will really predict your level of mental fitness,” Robinson explains.
It’s time for a mental workout, with this framework Robinson has created to develop your mental fitness:
Give your strengths a workout
Have a good think about what you’re good at, although this might be more difficult than it sounds. Robinson says to ask yourself a couple of questions: “How much knowledge do you have of your strengths? How often do you use them?”
The Australian Psychological Society suggests using one of your strengths every day in a new way, to help you give this part of your mental fitness a good workout.
Workout your mental flexibility
Your flexibility is increased through powerful activities such as mindfulness and meditation. “You need to be able to observe your own thoughts in order to control them and make them work for you,” Robinson says.
Acceptance is a big part of mental flexibility, too, including acceptance of yourself, of others and of the things you can’t change. “How much negative emotion is in your life?” Robinson asks. She says to gain a mental flexibility workout, you can try increasing positive emotions and decreasing the negativity. “Ask yourself, ‘what are your strategies around introducing more positive emotions into your life’?” Robinson suggests.
Workout your mental endurance
While few people can say they have unwavering self-confidence, this resilience can be learnt. “If you have good self-belief, if you believe you can do something, then that’s a good predictor of mental wellbeing,” says Robinson. “You can develop that and it can be taught.”
Endurance and resilience are vital to a fit mind. Robinson adds the ability to adapt to challenges, both within your mind and externally, is a big part of mental fitness.
Workout your support team
No one can do this alone. You need others around you who can help maintain your mental fitness during the good times and pick you up if you fall down in some areas. Robinson advises asking yourself: “Who’s there for you every day? Who’s your social support? Who are those people who help you, who you turn to and who make your life better?” This is a very big predictor of positive mental wellbeing and fitness.
It's important to practice this at work, too. Who are the people at work who brighten your day and make you feel energised? Try to schedule a regular catch up with those workmates, perhaps grabbing a coffee together or stopping by to say hi. Setting up a regular lunch time walk can also be great for strengthening social connections and building friendships and support. Why not put the call out and see who's keen to join you?
For more structured support at work, you might want to consider creating a personal wellbeing plan. This is a straightforward way of capturing the activities and habits that keep you mentally well, and highlighting those that are less helpful. You may like to share your plan with a trusted colleague or manager, asking them to keep an eye out and let you know if you're displaying signs of stress—or kicking some great mental fitness goals.
This article was provided by our workplace mental health and wellbeing Partner, SuperFriend, and reproduced with their permission.