Why Don’t We Have Mental Fitness Centers?
According to statista.com there were 38,477 gyms in the US in 2017. This is a 5,500 jump from the number of gyms that were recorded in 2012. Latin America carries the highest concentration of fitness facilities at 51,200. The global gym industry accounted for 81 billion US dollars in 2015. What used to be set apart for the select few is now available for anyone with $10 per month.
These numbers tell us the vital role that fitness centers play in promoting overall physical health. But with the above eye opening statistics, the question begs, How come there are no mental fitness centers? With mental health becoming a hot button topic due to the headwinds of anxiety and chronic stress, which one mental expert aptly named “the enemy of the mind” it would appear that we should have just as many mental fitness centers as we do physical fitness ones.
Understanding Mental Strength
According to author and clinical social worker Amy Morin, mental strength is about “improving your ability to regulate your emotions, manage your thoughts, and behave in a positive manner despite your circumstances.” She establishes a strong case for mental strength in her book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do as she weaves together a system to understand the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
Proposed Features of a Mental Fitness Course
One of my favorite summer shows is American Ninja Warrior on NBC. I am continually amazed by the physical feats accomplished by these athletes. The goal is to complete every obstacle course culminating in a four stage elimination course in Las Vegas. The climax is a 35 foot straight climb with a one million dollar purse awaiting the winner. To understand the degree of difficulty only one person has won the ultimate prize in the ten seasons of the show. This year the show creators established some cash prizes to encourage the athletes. An eighteen foot warped wall was added next to the standard fourteen foot one. A $10,000 cash prize was attached to completing the 18ft wall climb. Whoever went further the fastest in the four stage Las Vegas course took home $100,000.
But equally amazing is how many athletes cited mental preparation as tandem to their physical preparation to compete in the grueling competition. Some of their stories are quite inspiring as these tough athletes reveal what they have had to endure and overcome while preparing for the season.
In American Ninja Warrior fashion, I would like to present a proposal for a four stage mental fitness course. The prize? Cognitive fitness that will give you better decision making ability, make you better under pressure, provide you with the tools to navigate tough seasons in life, and give you a clear mental landscape to live a flourishing life. Are you ready to be a Mental Fitness Warrior? Let’s begin.
Stage One: Sleep
In an effort to underscore the important role that sleep plays in your overall quality of life, consider two dull knives placed side by side. Only difference is one is sharpened while the other remains dull. Two people pick up the knives with the task to cut meat. It is obvious that the handler of the sharpened knife will experience greater effectiveness.
Sleep is the whetstone of the brain. Lack of sleep increases the chance of mental dullness which if we compare with a dull knife leads to ineffectiveness, unnecessary exertion of energy and prolonged stress and frustration.
Just as your phone or computer undergoes recharging and routine maintenance for better performance so does your brain during sleep undergo vital renewal and removal of unnecessary thoughts for better performance. Sleep acts as your brain’s garbage in garbage out system. Give your brain the sleep it needs. You will see improved productivity and reduced stress.
Stage Two: Natural Light
Exposure to natural light plays a significant role in your brain’s energy levels and overall mood. If you have ever wondered why at certain times of the day especially the afternoon you get sluggish, sleepy, easily agitated and distracted, you might be depriving your brain of vital natural light. Just as the blue light emitted by your phone or computer causes eye strain, lack of natural light causes mental deficiencies and strain. To give your brain a quick recharge, invite natural light into the room you are in or take a walk outside to give your brain this necessary refreshment to improve efficiency and quality of life.
Stage Three: Prayer
Noise seems to be a growing fatal attraction in our world. Unfortunately, we are addicted to all that clamors for our attention with loud sounds. From alerts and notifications on our devices that constantly ping at us to the outside noise from car horns and construction sites, it is increasingly difficult to find solitude. And when we do, our conditioning to noise gives us FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as our minds race frantically, wondering what we are missing out on.
Prayer has become a go to for me to calm my mental faculties and relieve stress. I have found myself mentally rejuvenated after moments of seclusion in prayer. Prayer needs not to be long or loud but intentional as a way to deepen connection with God. My perspective on an issue has been significantly shifted for the better after spending time in prayer.
Dr. Caroline Leaf, a brain expert noted the below effects of prayer on the brain:
- 12 minutes of daily focused prayer changes the brain by increasing activity in the parts associated with social interaction, compassion, and sensitivity to others.
- Prayer can reverse damage caused by toxic thoughts, causing the brain and body to thrive.
Stage Four: Reading
Literature is rapidly becoming an impoverished value in today’s visually infused, click and scroll culture. Our watch and share one-to-three minute video snippets are stripping us of our ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. This creates a tendency to be impatient which I have found to be cured through book reading.
As an apple a day is said to keep the doctor away, so does a chapter of book reading a day keep chaotic thinking at bay. I have discovered that reading has helped to keep my mind alert and improved my focus. It has trained me to hold my attention to a task.
Reading helps your brain relax while at the same time stimulating your imagination and creativity. If you have read a book, you can probably attest to the mental and emotional engagement you are soaked into when you get engrossed in it.
Next time you are conflicted between streaming and reading, choose to read and feed your brain. You can purchase my new book Discover Your Treasure for your reading pleasure.
Final Thought: Progress is seldom made by simply observation and agreement. The greatest activity one can engage in is to see anything worthwhile become reality is the application of knowledge. Physical fitness is actualized through an established routine. So is mental fitness.
As a supplement, head to https://amymorinlcsw.com/mentally-strong-people/ to access the list of 13 things that mentally strong people don’t do from Amy Morin’s website.
Additionally, view my reading corner to check out what I am reading this month. I hope it encourages you to start a reading journey as well.
Keep on Keeping on!
PS: My next blog post release will be on Thursday, December 6th.