When it comes to Fitness Friday, we talk a lot about physical health. And ask yourself, when it comes to fitness, what comes to mind? I’m sure you’re thinking diet and exercise. One often overlooked part of fitness is your mental health. We tend to work on our diets and our bodies, but often neglect our minds. And if you think about it, you really need to be in your right mind if you want to be successful with anything else in your life. Without your mind, it can all go…and quickly.
With that in mind (cheesy pun), I came up with a list of the top five key things you can do to improve your mental health and keep you in the right mindset. These five things are not one and done things. These are things you need to practice regularly, daily if possible. Make them a priority and keep your mind happy and healthy.
1. Take Care of Your Body
I know it’s funny for me to start the post talking about mental health and how important it is, only to start my list with taking care of your body. But taking care of your body is a big part of your mental health. If you are 40lbs over weight, are you happy? Imagine six months from now, you’ve lost 40lbs. I bet your mind would be in a better place then.
My point is that our mental health is affected by how we see ourselves and the story we tell ourselves about the person we are. Exercise and good health tell a good story and with it comes a healthier mind. Try to exercise 2-3x a week and eat a healthy diet. Your mind will thank you for it.
2. Hang Around Good People
It’s been said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. If you’re hanging out with people who do or value bad things in life, chances are high you will have the same values. That being said, if you hang out with people who do positive things, have good morals, and value good things, then you’re more likely to be happier.
Look at your circle of friends. I mean honestly look at them. Are they who you want to be? If they are, spend lots of time with them. But if they’re not, I’m not saying drop them like a bad habit, but try to limit the time with people who are not good for your mental health. I know this can be hard, but it’s important.
3. Practice Gratitude
Daily practice of being grateful is critical to happiness and good mental health. When was the last time you said you were grateful for something, and meant it? Practicing gratitude is about being thankful for the things we take for granted. Things like our health, or the health of a loved one. We take so many things for granted that we’re not even aware of. Practicing gratitude is about taking the time to be thankful and truly appreciating those things.
A daily journal can help with daily gratitude practice. Here is the one I use via my Amazon affiliate link:
4. Be Present
Being present is about living each moment in the moment. If you’re washing dishes, think about washing the dishes. If you’re spending time with your kids, spend the time with your kids, giving them your undivided attention. Don’t be distracted by what happened earlier, or what you have to do later. Live in the moment and be grateful for that moment. As Eckhart Tolle says, “There is never a time when your life is not this moment.”
You can practice being more present by paying attention to where your mind is. When you’re doing something, are you thinking about what you’re doing or is your mind thinking about something in the past or something you need to do later? If you find your mind not focused on the exact thing you’re doing, reel it back in and focus on the current moment and what you’re doing. Meditation can help with this. I practice 10 minutes of meditation daily and it’s been a big help.
5. Give of Yourself
Nothing feels better than doing for others. When you help someone, you’re giving your body food for the soul. And that food for the soul nourishes your mind. To be selfless is very liberating and freeing. You can watch your worries wither away if you’re helping someone else with their challenges.
It may be a little tougher now to do for others, during COVID distancing, but you can give of yourself to the people in your own house. Take out the trash, do the dishes, pick up the bowl left in the den. One of my values I repeat daily is, “Service: Make service a part of your life and always do for others.”
If you want to be healthy, you have to take care of your entire body, including your mind. One could even argue that you have to start with the mind first. Because if your mind is not healthy, you probably won’t do many other things to improve your health anyways.
This list of five is not a complete list. It is simply a list of what I believe to be the top five things you can do for your mental health. A quick search on Google for mental health will land you on links that will give you 10, 20, or 100 things you can do. Those lists can be overwhelming. My list of five is short, achievable, and capable of being integrated in your life daily if you truly want strong mental health.