Ever try doing a Leg Curl with Biceps Curl, a Toe Touch Row, a Standing Arm Pullover or a Single Leg Pullover on your Total Gym when your mind is all stressed out? Think you can properly lift a weight or do a proper push up when you mind is filled with depression or anxiety? No.
You see, your mental wellbeing, your mental fitness, affects your ability to lift a fork, put on your gym shoes, and indeed your overall fitness. Stated simply, you won’t lift 5 pounds when your mind is in a coma state. It takes mental awareness, a healthy inner locus of control, a feeling of self-confidence, to pursue any goal with a chance of success.
Richard Davidson, in “The Emotional Life of Your Brain,” said, “I would go so far as to assert that of all the forms of human behavior and psychological states, the most powerful influence on our physical health is our emotional life.” That’s the power of your mental fitness on your mind body wellness.
And William James, one of the most noteworthy psychologists throughout the ages, wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” Again, that’s the power of your mental fitness on your overall wellbeing. Nothing can happen without an uncluttered mindset of desire to achieve, Kenneth Baum in “The Mental Edge” observed.
This awareness isn’t new. Science has recognized the mind-body connection for centuries. Clearly, a stressed mind can lead to an unhealthy, truly ill, body. So, to keep yourself fully healthy, it’s required you begin by being inside of your own mind.
Mental fitness consists of you upgrading your emotional style, which is comprised of six dimensions, each of which requires strengthening in order to properly upgrade your physical fitness:
- Resilience: how long does it take you to recover from misfortune?
- Outlook: how long are you able to sustain a mindset of positive emotion?
- Social Intuition: how adept are you at picking up social signals from those around you?
- Self-Awareness: how well do you perceive bodily feelings that reflect your emotions?
- Sensitivity to Context: how good are you at regulating your emotional responses to others?
- Attention: how sharp and clear is your mental focus?
A first step in upgrading these six areas is to become a Fundamentally independent thinker (F.I.T.). A fundamentally independent thinker understands that nothing makes a person upset, angry, or depressed; rather, what a person thinks about things determines how they feel. As Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” There is no motivation without this important “inner game.” Rid yourself of thoughts of inadequacy, predictions of failure and assuming others are reacting negatively to you especially in the gym or while working out on your home Total Gym. Remember that Marcus Aurelius in his “Meditations” noted, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
To boost your mental fitness and become F.I.T., delete these words from your vocabulary:
1. “It/you/they make me feel…”
Nothing, nobody, outside of you “makes” you feel or do anything. Be FIT! When you catch, challenge and change those words and no longer say “It makes me so angry, worried, sad” you will be on the road to being a fundamentally independent thinker. A client told me, “The size of that dumbbell scares the heck out of me…I can’t lift that!” This is a form of “makes me.” How can a dumbbell climb into your noggin, sort through your brain chemistry, and result in an emotion? It’s not possible. Delete “makes me.”
2. “I get, I got…”
No, you don’t “get,” an emotion, rather you create what you feel. Emotions aren’t like a little bug that suddenly lands on you when you aren’t expecting it, takes a bite out of you and “gets” you upset or even happy. Emotions are entirely from inside—from your own thoughts. A third Stoic philosophy, Epictetus, observed, “People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.” You don’t “get” angry, concerned, upset but rather you are your own script-writer, producer and star in your own emotional show.
3. “I escaped from feeling…”
You didn’t “get” anxious and you don’t need to “escape” from it. You actually discard an emotion you don’t like because it’s within you to begin with, in your perception, vision, view, of something outside of you. Escaping is victim talk. Discarding is victor talk. Marcus Aurelius once again, “Today I escaped anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions — not outside.”
Delete these externalizing, dependent, blaming words and you’ll create an unconquerable mind, the F.I.T. mindset, and the victory you genuinely desire. To do otherwise, to keep these words in your vocabulary, to continue to give your power away to other people, things, events, conditions, circumstances and outcomes is to fill your thinking with victim thinking while hoping to be a victor. You won’t become physically fit thinking like a victim.
The biggest obstacles we face are not the size of the weights or kettlebells, the distance to the finish line, the hard bodies of other people in our group ex class, the cupcakes calling our name, what our trainers are asking (ok, shouting) us to do, the last three reps or the final 10 pounds in our diets. No, the biggest obstacle we face is deep within us…our mental fitness, being F.I.T., is the answer. We limit ourselves in our everyday life, in our fitness routines, in our diets, in our accomplishments, and in our relationships.
Heading to a workout, a big date, a job interview, a surgical procedure and want to insure your mental fitness is at its optimal best? Give these tools a try:
- Stay in the present.
- Expand your unconditional self-acceptance and self-compassion.
- Serve others and ask for others to help you when necessary.
- Take a learner’s attitude towards every adversity that comes across your path, “What can I learn from this?
- Stay in a positive mindset – your mental fitness requires it and your physical fitness depends on it. Someone close a door on you? No, you haven’t been “rejected,” but rather “redirected” – even if the door slammer had negative intentions. Instead of complaining, try exclaiming the positive in a seemingly negative circumstance. Can you be happy even though an unhappy event took place? Sure, you aren’t happy about the negative event, but you can remain positive about life regardless, right? That’s the kind of mental fitness that leads to healthy physical wellbeing.
- Finally, follow the DALPO recipe for mental and physical wellbeing:
D. Avoid demanding that anything in your life be different than it is. Prefer it to be, desire it to be, but stay away from shouldhood.
A. Avoid thinking that occurrences are “awful” when they’re just unfortunate or too bad. They may be hard, but not too hard.
L. Avoid low frustration tolerance, believing that you can’t bear or tolerate an adversity in your life.
P. Avoid personalizing events and labeling yourself negatively. Cultivating habits of positive thinking with mindfulness will help you develop a more compassionate and resilient approach to life.
O. Avoid overgeneralizing, thinking erroneously that negative things “always” happen to you and good things “never” happen to you.” This will help you to more fully enjoy your journey through life, regardless of outcomes or destinations, consequences or costs.