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How to be MENTALLY FIT in 2022

By Dr KHUSHBOO THAKKER GARODIA
January 06, 2022 11:54 IST
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Read. Meditate. Take a short nap. Take up activities that strengthen and sharpen your brains, and enhances your mood and memory, suggests stress management expert Dr Khushboo Thakker Garodia.

Kindly note the image has been posted only for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Jacqueline Fernandez/Instagram

We know what physical fitness is and we give it a lot of much needed importance too.

Every year end we start focusing on creating New Year Resolutions, most of which are pertaining to physical fitness, but how often do we make resolutions pertaining to mental fitness!?

What do we really know about being mentally fit?

Let's draw a parallel to physical fitness. We know physical fitness can be developed with a trainer at the gym, at a Pilates class, or by playing a sport or even running outside.

This way you develop muscles that help you function better in your everyday life. You become stronger, leaner, fitter, have more energy, improved endurance, and can manage your health better.

This leads to a better quality of life. Better fitness equates with the ability to handle the demands of each day better and you can enjoy your life even more.

Now imagine being mentally fit too, where you have the ability and space to respond to life better, have more positive emotions, are able to tackle stress better , and feel a sense of inner peace!

Mental fitness can be defined as having and maintaining a state of well-being and cultivating awareness of how we think, behave and feel.

Let me give you an example: Say you find yourself in an argument with your spouse/partner. They say something out of anger that is mean and hurtful.

This puts you in a defensive and reactive mode, so you go right ahead and give it back, because you are hurt and now you want your partner to hurt.

And this can go back and forth, leaving you both feeling out of control, upset and extremely exhausted.

But when you are more mentally fit, you learn the ability to recognise that you have a choice how you handle yourself when that first angry statement comes your way -- whether to react or to respond or to stay quiet - the choice lies with you.

Mental fitness gives you this ability to pause and respond in the way you would like, in the given moment, rather than having to reset or repair the damage caused later.

Benefits of being mentally fit

When you are mentally fit, the way you interact with the world is different.

The above was just an example of an interaction with your partner.

Just imagine having the ability to sit back to think about how to respond and be less reactive in all the interactions we have every single day, every week, every month and each year!

Think of the benefit this has not just on your emotional health but also your physical health.

When you're mentally healthy, you enjoy several advantages, like:

  • Being more aware.
  • The ability to respond, not react.
  • Improved cognitive function. Better focus, processing speed, memory, concentration, time management, and communication have a positive impact, personally and professionally.
  • Improved relationships
  • Increased optimism.
  • More confidence.
  • Improved time management
  • Improved sleep

How does Mental Fitness function?

Our brains carry thoughts along neural pathways.

When we repeat a certain thought pattern many times, that neural pathway is reinforced, and the thinking becomes automatic.

While a daily routine can be good, when it comes to our thought patterns, we need to be aware of what our routines are and what pathways we're creating without realizing.

The problem with this is that routine leads us to living on autopilot and in a lot of situations it causes us to react in ways that are unhelpful.

This happens because reactions are based on well-worn pathways to past emotions or triggers.

As you get mentally fitter you have the awareness, the mental strength, and even mental agility to identify which option or reaction is good for you and choose that route.

It gives you the time to pause and ask yourself 'What would I like to have happen here? Where would I like this to go?'

Too often, we are acting, speaking, and thinking automatically or unconsciously.

Like any other organ, our brain is made of muscle too and like how we train our muscles when we workout, we can reprogram our brain too.

We can create neural pathways that serve us better and benefit our lives. This is the core essence of mental fitness training.

Here are 5 things you can do to improve your Mental Fitness in 2022:

1. Read for 30 minutes a day

Reading for at least thirty minutes every day is a great brain booster.

Research shows that reading rewires your brain, helps increase your fluid intelligence, focus and concentration.

Reading a different variety of book exposes you to different authors, cultures, way of writing -- and this novelty helps brain grow stronger

2. Practice meditation

Meditation helps improve the brain. It works on areas of the brain which are associated with emotion regulation and memory consolidation.

It helps reduce stress, anxiety and promotes better and deeper sleep. Regular meditation also helps to improve concentration, focus, memory and mood.

3. Challenge your brain with analytical games every day

These games help strengthen and sharpen your brain, improve memory, processing speed and brain function.

You can try jigsaw puzzles, crossword, Sudoku, Scrabble, chess or even a Rubik's cube.

Spend 15-20 minutes playing these games daily.

4. Take a 20 minute nap in the day

A short midday nap can help boost memory -- both short term and long term, alertness information processing and information retention. It also helps rest your mind.

5. Eat to strengthen your brain

Your brain growth needs healthy fats. Eating good fats from avocados, nuts such as walnuts, seeds such as flax seed, fish and olive oil.

Eat more of green leafy vegetables and reduce sugar and processed foods from your diet.

Drink enough water as your brain needs to be hydrated for optimal cognitive functioning.

With any kind of exercise routine, being regular and consistent are crucial to enhance fitness. Being mentally fit not only helps you, but those around you too.

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Dr KHUSHBOO THAKKER GARODIA