How much thought or time do you give to your mental health?
Mental health has become a big topic over the last few years. It’s something I’ve talked about with clients and members often as I feel it is overlooked and considered somehow less important than its physical cousin.
Sometimes you are feeling physically good, no illness, training well etc, other times you get injuries or setbacks due to illness. To me that’s the same with mental health and fitness. Sometimes your mental health is good, you feel great, you are resilient and take life’s stresses in your stride. Other times it can be not so good, things can get on top of you for all manner of reasons, perhaps you could suffer from a degree of mental illness.
Over the years I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs with my mental health and it took a long time to find practices that I’ve now found helpful. I now see mental health as not something you either have or do not have – more its something that you have to work on, continuously – much like physical health.
I’d like to share of couple of things I have found useful – I’m not suggesting that these will be always right for you but I feel they are worth and explore…
- Stoic thinking and similar. I’m not going to go much into this as I am far from qualified to do it justice, but would point you to a site called the Daily Stoic which offers a good description: For those of us who live our lives in the real world, there is one branch of philosophy created just for us. Stoicism It’s a philosophy designed to make us more resilient, happier, more virtuous and more wise–and as a result, better people, better parents and better professionals. Stoicism has been a common thread though some of history’s great leaders. It has been practiced by Kings, presidents, artists, writers and entrepreneurs. Marcus Aurelius. Frederick the Great, Montaigne, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Theodore Roosevelt, General James Mattis, —just to name a few—were all influenced by Stoic philosophy..I’d also strongly recommend one of the best books I’ve stumbled on in years, by, of all people, Derren Brown. He has written 2 books that look at how using Stoic thinking and similar principles can improve many aspects of your mental health – his first was a book called ‘Happy‘ and is a big (very) book. He then wrote sort of condensed version of that called ‘A little happier’ – If you have the time and the interest then I’d stick with the much bigger and more in depth ‘Happy’ -but either way get it on Audible as its great listening as you can tell he’s been really changed by this.
- Meditation – Not the stereotypical ‘sitting cross legged on the floor with incense burning’ etc! I have dabbled in this for a long time after using some scripted audio scripts on the fitness and weight loss holidays we used to run in the Scottish Highlands. The company we used was called Meditainment and they are great for guided mediations. It’s not simply new age nonsense either. There are many. many studies that show how incorporating regular practice of mindfulness / mediation can have positive impacts on everything from mental health to reducing cardiovascular disease. The session i did were simply 20 min audio recordings that tell a story – you just sat back, listen and relax. I found them a really good way of taking some time out from the day. I’d strongly recommend giving them a try – honestly. I’ve more recently started also using an app called Headspace which you may have heard of. the app takes you from a complete beginner and over the course of different ‘courses’ teaches you a variety of techniques. These start with really short ( 3 to 5 mins) daily sessions and the guy behind it has a real passion.
I see the above as I do my physical fitness training. I guess I have just started off on this journey but already I can see and feel the benefits. It’s not a magic bullet and sticking with the practice / remembering to live by the ideas in Stoicism can sometimes be hard. With practice though, and very much like physical exercise it will become easier.
Even if these two ideas don’t resonate with you, I’d still strongly recommend you start to pay attention to your mental health, seek out ways that feel right to you and start something that will help. Health, to me at least, is a broad spectrum, being physically fit is great but if your mental health is ignored you are missing out on a huge part of life. Give it a try and let me know if this has been of any help.
As ever feel free to comment below if you have any other ideas or questions.