Mental Fitness – Lesson 16 – Let’s practice building mental fitness


Greetings and welcome to Lesson 16 of my ‘Introduction to Mental Fitness’ course. If you are new to the course, check out the introductory post first.

Also a quick reminder that for Flinders students, these lessons can found on our FLO site as well, where you can chat about these lessons privately with other students, as comments left on this blog are visible to the general public.


Welcome to Lesson 16 of the Introduction to Mental Fitness Course.

In the last lesson, I provided a concise but fairly comprehensive summary of what I’ve been talking about in the earlier mental fitness lessons. I recommend quickly revisiting that before reading this post.


Ok, so you’ve had a quick read of that and are back.

What I want to start in this lesson, and continue with subsequent lessons is to focus in on the specific incremental changes you could make to your life that will build mental fitness.

From this point onwards, these lessons will be about taking action and experimenting with making changes in your life.

In this post I wanted to explore some very simple changes that you might experiment with to build mental fitness/psychological capacities in different areas. Think of it as building on the small lifestyle change I encouraged you to explore in earlier lessons.

Let’s start with the different areas in which you could make a change which I outlined in the last lesson.

  • understanding and getting one’s psychological needs met
  • forming new habits
  • study skills
  • mastering emotions
  • caring for your body
  • thinking effectively
  • building positive relationships
  • helping others
  • self-awareness and understanding
  • cognitive enhancement
  • developing meaning and purpose
  • personal safety
  • shaping your environment
  • work skills
  • financial control
  • unwinding and having fun
  • presenting yourself
  • being creative

This might seem like a lot of areas but remember that we are talking about a human life here, which is incredibly complex. You are the sum total of a vast array of knowledge and skills and abilities. You are going to be adding to that in your quest for mental fitness.

Below I have identified a simple addition you could make to your life in each of these areas. I want you to pick one to work on.  In some cases this will involve taking on some new knowledge. In other cases it will be about establishing a new habit or routine. I’ll be picking one and doing it right alongside you.

Over the next month, I’ll blog about the change I am making as an illustration of the mental fitness model in action. You are very welcome (and I encourage you) to mimic the process with your own change.

  • understanding and getting one’s psychological needs met – memorise the psychological needs in this post to the point of being able to list them out without help
  • forming new habits – I want you to memorise this set of techniques for building new habits
  • study skills – pick one or more of the strategies outlined in this document to help you get better at studying this upcoming semester
  • mastering emotions – use the Smiling Mind mindfulness app for a month (aim for once a day)
  • caring for your body – eat more fibre
  • thinking effectively – train your attention for a month (aim for once a day)
  • building positive relationships – book in an additional weekly social event for the next month
  • helping others – consider setting up a small regular donation to a charity of your choice
  • self-awareness and understanding – keep a journal for a month (15 minutes a day)
  • cognitive enhancement – set your bedtime 1 hour earlier than normal
  • developing meaning and purpose – do the meaningful photos task from the Greater Good website (will only take you a week)
  • personal safety – develop a coping plan
  • shaping your environment – create and maintain an inspiring study space
  • work skills – sign up for and complete a Horizon Professional Development course/event
  • financial control – learn how to budget
  • unwinding and having fun – plan at least one simple fun activity each day
  • presenting yourself – upgrade 1 aspect of your appearance
  • being creative – implement habits to increase creativity

What change am I making?

I’ve decided to set my bedtime 1 hour earlier each night. I was going to bed at 10.30. For the next month, I am going to go to bed at 9.30. 


Gareth, this all seems a bit silly!

You might be sitting there reading this, thinking “I’ve got real problems in my life and real challenges to deal with and you want me to piss around doing little challenges”.

Yes, yes I do.

Not because I think that ‘planning 1 fun thing a day’ will solve all your problems, but because I believe that we grow and get better and more capable through incremental changes to our life and that you have to get that process started in order to activate the things that will address those bigger problems/challenges.

That extra hour of sleep each night might improve your mood the next day. Feeling a little happier you decide to go to that lecture that you were going to miss. You meet someone at that lecture who is doing a project you really like. You get involved in that project…..and so on.

When we make small changes to our lives, we trigger off other events and changes that accumulate over time.

When we deliberately pick changes that we think will make our lives better, we shift our mental focus from the things in our life that aren’t going well and are out of our control, to building things in our life that are good and within our control.


My challenge to you

Pick one of the examples above, or choose one of your own.

For the next month, commit to manifesting that positive change in your life. Observe and record what happens.

Come back to the blog regularly as I report on how my change is going (getting an extra hour of sleep).

If you feel like sharing the change you want to make and how you are going with it, consider visiting the FLO discussion for this lesson.



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