To date I’ve been using this blog to focus mostly on directing you to useful health and wellbeing related resources and opportunities. That won’t stop.
But I am also interested in using this blog to help you develop specific skills and capabilities that you can apply to your studies, but also to your physical, emotional, social and intellectual wellbeing.
So today I am starting a conversation about Mental Fitness, that will continue through the year.
Mental fitness is not a widely used term, however there are a number of reasons why I like it, and a number of reasons why I think talking about it in the context of university studies is important.
The Bite Back website defines mental fitness as “having a healthy and strong mind to allow you to handle the challenges and opportunities that life puts in front of you, without getting too worn out.”
One of the reasons I really like the term is because of the obvious connections with physical fitness.
Drawing a comparison between physical fitness and mental fitness is useful for a number of reasons.
- Fitness (mental or physical) is something anyone can work on, regardless of our abilities or existing health/mental health conditions
- Fitness (mental or physical) helps protect us against future illness
- Just like physical fitness prepares us for the physical demands in life, so mental fitness prepares us for situations that are cognitively (i.e. mentally) challenging
- Just like there are many different activities that we can use to build physical fitness (e.g. gardening, running, cycling, walking, yoga etc), there are many different activities we can use to build mental fitness
- Just like people with significant physical disabilities are still encouraged to and can work on their physical fitness, individuals with mental illness are by no means prevented from working on their mental fitness
- People work on their physical fitness to feel better and stronger and happier. Similarly, working on your mental fitness can have the same kinds of impacts.
Studying at university is a context in which having a healthy and strong mind is obviously useful. You are here to learn, and learning is easier if your primary learning organ (your brain) is operating at full force (note: we will discover along the way that mental fitness is very much dependent on the health of your whole body, not just your brain).
But it is not just the demands of learning that are present at university. People come to university with other things happening in their lives. Those coming straight from school are trying to adapt to adult life. Some people are trying to juggle study, work and family. Others have travelled from overseas to study, leaving their family and friends behind and are trying to adapt to a new culture. Others come to study with existing mental or physical disabilities. All of these require mental adaptation.
Finally, university and the subsequent job market is increasingly competitive. How well you do at your studies will have an influence on whether you can get into post-graduate studies, graduate recruitment programs or desired jobs. Furthermore the skills that you learn here at University are the same set of skills you will need to use out in the workforce.
Basically, your ability to perform is important, and mental fitness contributes to how well you can perform.
Ok – i’m mildly convinced that mental fitness might be important – how do I build it?
Good question, and that is the precise reason I am starting this series of blog posts on mental fitness – to try and answer that question. Over 2018 on this blog, we are going to be taking a little bit of a journey together looking at a) what constitutes mental fitness, and b) how do we go about building it. I’ll be learning as much as you along the way.
Blog posts will be, where possible, practical and focused on things you can do to build mental fitness. I’ll be searching the mental health literature for studies showing positive impacts of different mental fitness techniques/interventions and sharing these techniques with you.
In addition, I’ll be developing (either myself, or with the help of other researchers/clinicians) some self-guided workbooks, that you can use to focus in on certain mental fitness topics in more depth. The first of these workbooks is already complete – on the popular topic of procrastination. I will be releasing it soon in an upcoming post.
I hope you’ll join me on this mental fitness ride. If there are specific topics that you’d like to see me prioritise, please leave a comment below or contact me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Coming up next…..I talk about the different domains of mental fitness.