It’s a new year and you (like myself and many other people) want a fresh start. You want to prioritize your health and well-being this year. Your New Year’s resolution is to get healthy and fit! But where do you start? Do you start eating better? Going to the gym? Getting better sleep? Yes. Yes. And yes. But before you lace up those new sneakers and fill up that gallon water bottle, you need to first start with your brain. You need to start developing your mental fitness first and foremost, which you can then use to develop your physical fitness and overall well-being.
Mental fitness is simply the ability to appropriately manage thoughts, feelings or emotions, and actions. It’s the ability to think clearly, utilize self-control, and make good decisions that lead to good health and well-being. No matter what challenges you’re facing in life, whether mental, emotional or physical, the place to start is always in the brain and with the mind. You have to first understand what is going on, construct a plan of attack, and then execute. And it always comes back to the brain.
Here’s a very simple three-step process to develop greater mental fitness:
You need to understand how the brain works and how your mind tends to operate based upon evolution and biology. So many of the challenges that hurt health and well-being are rooted in the limbic system of the brain, or the emotional brain. Fear, anxiety, stress, worry (which lead to physical ailments) are all governed by the limbic system in the brain.
Thankfully, we have another portion in the brain that can and does control the limbic system and override the limbic system when properly understood and trained. And this is the cortex – specifically the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for self-control, decision-making, planning, and rationality.
So the key to all things in life, and especially improving well-being, is to improve the prefrontal cortex and develop the ability to better control emotional states, thought patterns, habits, and behaviors. And we need a plan of attack to do this. Which is the next step.
The second phase is all about specific exercises to strengthen the prefrontal cortex. And these exercises are to be performed every day for 20 minutes each if you want to realize results as quickly as possible. And there are three exercises should be performed and should be performed either first thing in the morning. These exercises are: Reading, journaling, and mindfulness meditation.
The reading should be something about health improvement, mindset development or something inspirational. The journaling should be about gratitude or working on a passion project. The meditation should be loving kindness or simple mindfulness breathing. All three of these practices are discussed in detail on this platform.
Meditation improves decision making and self-control. Reading improves focus and cognition. Journaling (and meditation) reduces stress and anxiety. That’s why those are primary and priorities. So start there. Get into a habit of those three practices, and then get after in the gym and in the kitchen, and get better sleep.
If you’re thinking to yourself “I don’t have an extra hour of the day to do this“, you need to create it. Go to bed an hour early and up an hour early. Take a break from the Netflix or the extracurriculars. Put the kids to bed a little earlier. Prioritize your well-being. It doesn’t take long to notice significant improvement.
Many people, especially when first getting started with something new, need a little kick in the butt. They need some coaching, they need support, they need accountability. And this is perfectly normal and oftentimes required throughout the entire process. So, in order to stay disciplined and consistent, find someone to help and hold you accountable.
Remember, everything in our lives begins and ends in the brain. You have to make a decision to exercise, eat better and change your life. You need to exercise self-control in order to avoid sweets and junk food. It takes the right state of mind to be able to create a plan and stick to it.
Education, planning, execution with reading, meditation, journaling is the place to start. That is how you will greatly improve your mental fitness and overall well-being. If you want a training plan or some accountability, check out the rest of the platform for additional resources and content.
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