What is mental fitness? When most of us think about fitness, our brains automatically switch to an image of an incredibly ripped man or woman lifting some very heavy weights or partaking in some gravity defying calisthenics. Because of its health benefits (and confidence boosting abilities) physical fitness has been the focal point of almost all discussions surrounding fitness as a whole. That said, aptitude is not all about how long you can run, how many abs you have or even how heavy you can lift at the gym. Psychological fitness is also a part of overall fitness, albeit a very overlooked one. In today’s article we shall take a look at ‘what is mental fitness’, how physical fitness and mental health relate to each other, components and examples of psychological fitness and much more.
What Is Mental Fitness And What Are The 4 Components?
There are two ways to define this term:
- The first refers to an ability to think clearly and to make decisions efficiently (6)
- The second – and the one we shall be looking at today in depth – refers to the ability to have and maintain a state of well-being and cultivating awareness of how we think, behave and feel (8).
The first definition refers to how quickly and spectacularly you can ace an IQ test, pass trivia, solve puzzles or come up with solutions to problems on paper and in real life. The second definition goes a little deeper. It involves having and developing a sharper mind, as well as how you can keep not only your brain but also your emotional health in tip top shape.
What Are The Four Components Of Mental Wellness?
Psychological wellness – like physical fitness – is broken down into four main parts. These components, when worked on individually, ensure that your mental fitness is in tiptop shape. They include:
This pillar tackles matters mostly related to mental health. How do you see yourself and how good are you at managing or facing your emotions? Emotional fitness issues covered under this pillar include self-acceptance, self-esteem, resilience, and the ability to manage overwhelming emotions.
Do you have friends? And if so, who do you surround yourself with? What is your support network?
According to Psychology Today, having friends is a great way to enrich your life. The article bases these findings on one of the longest – and still ongoing – studies today. The study in question started in 1938 and over the years has made direct associations between happiness and close relationships. Researchers have found that study participants who have close relationships with their friends and families have had a higher quality of life and were happier. Their support network acts as their mood stabilizer while isolation acts as a mood destabilizer (4).
Another study published in 2021 also revealed how over the years multiple studies have shown how friendships improve our mental well being by providing us with a strong sense of companionship, mitigate feelings of loneliness, improve our self-esteem and life satisfaction, gives us a sense of purpose and control over our lives, can instill us with healthy behaviours and much more (3).
How many times have you stayed up at night unable to sleep due to stress about money? Financial problems have been linked to a decline in mental wellness. According to an article by Mind, money problems have been shown to trigger anxiety and panic attacks, sleep problems, and can even lead to loneliness and isolation (7).
A study published in 2016, also explored the link between money and mental health. Researchers found that having money not only lessened depression and anxiety in participants, but it also helped them improve their social networks and self of self worth (5).
With more and more conversations about a looming economic recession in 2022 (1), this pillar of mental wellness is more important than ever. Under this component you are able to learn how to learn how to feel in control of your finances, be able to handle financial setbacks, and be on track to achieve your financial and life goals.
As earlier stated, physical and mental fitness are intertwined. When you improve your diet, exercise more and sleep more, you improve your physical health by reducing your risk of chronic illnesses. By doing this you are able to put your mind at ease – especially if your family has a history of such diseases. Other correlations between physical fitness and mental wellness include:
- Exercising, which also improves your mood and reduces both short-term and long-term depression. Exercising, especially when done outside, is a great way to make friends which as seen above social relationships are a great way to boost mental wellness. Being out in nature has also been shown to boost mental health
- Learning, especially how to eat healthy meals improves your relationship with food which in turn reduces your risk of eating disorders and mental health problems like binge eating, bulimia, anorexia and much more.
- Depression and sleep, which are said to have a bidirectional relationship whereby less sleep can contribute to the development of depression and vice versa (2).
For your mental well being to be at its peak, you need to develop in all four areas. In order to properly develop you are required to do some internal work that includes:
- Understanding where your mental health is at – This can be done using the help of a therapist, psychologist, or even simple online tests.
- Recognizing the patterns that create difficult emotions and negative moods.
- Behavior strategies that improve your mood – This helps resolve the patterns that detract from your well-being by building new ones.
- Thought strategies that build balanced thinking – This goes a long way in helping you regulate overwhelming emotions and thoughts as and when they arise.
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What Is Mental Fitness Example?
Now that you understand what psychological fitness is and the four pillars needed to cultivate it, what are some tools that you can use to practice and improve your mental fitness?
- Meditation – This is a great thought strategy that can help you build balanced thinking. Whenever you realize that you are beginning to spiral into bad thoughts or are being overwhelmed by stress, take a step back, remove yourself from the matter and other distractions and meditate. This can help you release those bad thoughts and even come up with solutions to whatever might be stressing you
- Journaling – This is a good behaviour strategy that can help you deal with and even improve your mood. By writing things down, you are able to look at them critically, let them out and then look at them at a later date and in a calmer state or even store them – especially happy thoughts for another time.
- Reading – Many people use reading as a way to escape reality. While not dealing with your feelings is generally a bad thing, taking a break from them is a good thing as it helps you not make potentially bad, emotionally charged decisions. While most people automatically reach for non-fiction/self help books, we suggest trying some fiction the next time. A good mystery/thriller book can help with decision making, fantasy helps build your imagination, and something like romance can let you have a good cry and the happy ending can boost your mood.
- Practice gratitude – This helps you see that bad times are not all your life is made up of and give you the hope to look out for better days
- Breathing exercises – They are a great way to make yourself calm down when your emotions feel uncontrollable.
- Stop multitasking – While this can seem like a good thing that helps you accomplish multiple tasks at the same time, it more often than not leads to brain fog and scrambled thinking
- Play games – Whether it is on your phone, computer or outside with friends, games are not only fun but they require logic, word skills, math and more – all which are a great way to tease and challenge your brain as well as improving your brain’s speed and memory.
- Relax – Take a vacation if possible, sleep, go on a picnic. Just relax, do nothing and enjoy it.
What Is Good Mental Fitness?
As stated above, this is the ability to have and maintain a state of well being while being aware of how we feel, think and behave in all situations – stressful or otherwise. This can also be accompanied by the ability to think and make decisions quickly and clearly.
What Are The Three Mental Fitness Components?
In the same way that physical fitness has four components – namely cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, and a healthy weight – so does mental health have four not three. They include emotional well being, social network, financial and physical health.
What Are The Challenges To Improve Mental Fitness?
To ensure that you are at the best point in your life, you should aim to do more mental and physical challenges. Physical fitness challenges are pretty easy, you could try participating in a marathon, work out more to gain more muscle, run longer distances, drink more water, etc. But what about mental wellness challenges?
If you are interested in doing a self-checking mental boost challenge, start by asking yourself how you are everyday and answering honestly. For more in-depth challenges, you can find some online that challenge you for up to a month.
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The Bottom Line
Mental fitness, while not as popular as physical fitness, is just as important. It doesn’t matter how physically strong you are – if your mental health is not where it needs to be then everything around you can crumble easily. Be sure to apply the same dedication you have at the gym to your mind and emotions.
Ps. If you realize that you need more help, please be sure to speak to a therapist.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 81% of U.S. adults are worried about a recession hitting this year, survey finds (2022, cnbc.com)
- Depression and Sleep (2022, sleepfoundation.org)
- Friendship Importance Around the World: Links to Cultural Factors, Health, and Well-Being (2021, frontiersin.org)
- How Relationships Enrich Our Lives (2021, psychologytoday.com)
- Money and Mental Illness: A Study of the Relationship Between Poverty and Serious Psychological Problems (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Physical and mental fitness (n.d., schools.au.reachout.com)
- The link between money and mental health (2022, mind.org.uk)
- What is mental fitness? A how-to for exercising your brain (2021, betterup.com)