The MENTAL workout
Physical exercise is very important. Whichever form you choose, exercise is a fantastic and essential way to ensure our body, the only place we live in, is fit, strong and healthy.
But what about our mind?
Mental health issues have not raised considerably in recent years, but (according to the mental health charity MIND) have remained a constant. With 1 in 4 experiencing a mental health problem each year and 1 in 6 living with a common mental health problem (anxiety and depression) each week, it's definitely something that needs to be addressed.
It can be quite easy to neglect our mental health and put our complete focus on the physical. Although that sounds kinda stupid, a LOT of our attention is on appearance and what we can physically do MORE of.
More gym sessions.
It sounds crazy and people look at me as if to say "yeah right" but sometimes we simply require that step back, some reflection time, to enable us to progress forward. To grind ourselves down, mounting pressure on ourselves to keep going and going and going will ultimately grind us to a halt! Resulting in exhaustion. Burnout! We'll simply have nothing left to give!
This is when mental health issues can take a hold. We'll lose control and in a state of vulnerability begin to doubt or worry about our actions.
I personally have experienced bouts of depression and anxiety which I'm sure you may be aware of if you've followed me for a while. How I control it has been key in managing it and the below "workout" is so important to try and put into practice should you experience the same.
I'm no expert by all means, but I have learnt something extremely important over the years...
Train your body AND train your mind.
This is where the mental workout comes into play.
I was always aware of the importance of meditation and it's effect on the body, but rarely practiced it. I simply didn't want to sit down on a mountain top with my legs crossed and eyes closed and I thought "what's the point?!" I then discovered other ways to meditate and understood what meditation was for ME.
Meditation is simply time where I can draw awareness to the present moment.
Be it through exercise, walking, playing with my dog, doing activities I enjoyed, whatever it was. It was time to be aware of what I was enjoying and how I felt at that current moment in time.
The mental workout has been one of those things that has helped me to bring awareness to the present moment, slow down my thought process and kinda rearrange the clutter in my head. I first came across this format in a book entitled Organise Tomorrow Today written by Dr Jason Selk and Tom Bartow, but have practised similar methods over the years with great results. Most notably, dynamic meditation with Elliott Hulse over in St Petersburg, Florida.
Step 1 - DEEP CENTERED BREATHING
Breathing is something we all do and something we all need to do to stay alive. It's something we do without even knowing a lot of the time too. This exercise of deep, centered breathing is a way of bringing control to your body, slowing the heart rate, re focusing and ultimately allowing you to bring awareness to the present. You'll find that it simply slows down your thought process. Trying to function when stressed, or even with an elevated heart in general can affect your ability to think effectively. Breathe in for 6 seconds, hold for 2, breathe out for 6-8 seconds and repeat up to 10 times, ideally first thing in the morning.
Step 2 - POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Positive self talk in itself has the power to manifest itself into reality. It's key here to focus on who you want to become. I'm talking about the "I am"s, the "I can"s and the "I will"s. I am strong. I am fit. I can gain this promotion. I will lose this weight. I am, can be and will be happy. All of the positive reinforcement statements should identify and are unique to you.
Step 3 - THE "DONE WELLS"
The next step is to spend a very small amount of time reflecting on what you have done well over the past 24 hours. However great or small the "win" was, think back to it and acknowledge it. Personal examples for me could be a great class I delivered, a snippet of advice I gave to a client to help with an injury, an act of kindness or even a personal best on a weight in the gym. Whatever it may be replay that moment for a second and give yourself an imaginary pat of the back.
From there you can also visualise how an event or action is going to play through in the future. Imagine yourself delivering that speech at work or imagine the feeling after completing that workout after giving 110%. Visualising can be tricky when attempting to play out say a 30 minute session or pitch you have to do, so aim to visualise the SPECIFIC moments or success.
I visualise my long term goals each and every day and I find it provides me with the drive and momentum to keep pushing forward, doing the very best I can that's within my power that day.
Step 4 - POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
This is the same as step two. If you have the time, repeat this step.
Step 5 - DEEP CENTERED BREATHING
The same with step 5. If time permits, run through your breathing routine.
You don't have to say all of this out loud. You don't have to say it. You don't even have to complete all of the steps! What's important is you bring clarity to the present moment, appreciate the progress you have made and visualise where you want to be. I personally would say the first 3 steps will have a profound impact on your day to day going forward and are the key steps I aim to do when I can.
Sometimes, you may not be able to do them all. You may not be able to do any on a given day! But I definitely believe it's such an effective way of training your mentality to lead you through the day. Negative thoughts can become all too prominent in our daily lives, so I believe it's important to bring exercises like this for to replace any negativity with thoughts that emphasise the positive.
You wouldn't get physically strong without resistance training, so how can we possibly get mentally strong without training our mind?
STRONG mind. STRONG body.