We all have different things that help us stay mentally fit.
Everyone is different, and each of us will have different things that help keep our mental fitness in check. It’s worth noting that we do some of these things deliberately and some of them are more coincidental in our lives.
But by acknowledging the benefits to our mental health and building these activities into our schedules and prioritising them, we give ourselves the best chance of maintaining our mental fitness and protecting our mental health.
Some people like to go for a walk, others like to spend time with friends and family. For some people, meditation is the answer while others find comfort in reading or listening to music.
There are a lot of options, and we can usefully link them to the five areas of mental fitness to build awareness and prioritise action:
- Cognitive – our thoughts and how we’re thinking
- Physical – our body and physical health
- Emotional – our feelings
- Social – the people we interact with
- Environmental – our surroundings
The point is: it’s important to know what works best for you and try to do something every day to contribute to mental fitness.
The Genesis team have pulled together their go-to toolkit of six techniques that they use and recommend for you to try out as well.
Physical fitness is very closely linked to mental fitness.
We are designed to move a lot and physical exercise helps us to feel better and more energised, as well as providing many other benefits.
Exercise can help you sleep better, feel more positive about yourself, it’s a great way to spend time with friends and family, and it releases endorphins that make you happy.
You might not realise just how important exercise is for your mental health until you start doing it regularly and acknowledge the difference.
The social side of exercise – joining a sports club for example – can help combine many of the factors of mental fitness. It acts a motivator, provides a positive environment, social connection as well as the obvious physical exercise. All of these can lead to us feeling more positive about ourselves and thinking more clearly.
“I have often struggled with motivation to keep fit – especially in the winter – but I now know myself well enough to overcome the obstacles that we all face in the quest to keep fit. Entering races with friends to give myself a reason to train, using a smart watch to keep track of daily achievements and planning ahead are the three things that keep me fit. I also take the time to acknowledge the difference I feel psychologically when I have and haven’t exercised and that always helps me get out of bed when I would rather stay put!”. A healthy diet (physical and emotional), meditation (cognitive and emotional), and spending time outdoors (physical and environmental) are three things that can help reduce stress and promote mental fitness.”Olly, Co-Founder
Getting motivated to put on your trainers on can be hard, especially when it’s wet and cold outside, but you’ll never regret it and will always feel better as a result. Try starting with a friend or colleague to keep each other motivated and accountable, or if you’re new to exercise and could do with some structure and support, why not check out Joe Wick’s ‘First Steps to Fitness’ routine – it’s free.
Diet has a powerful effect on our mental wellbeing. When we feel good physically, we are more likely to feel great mentally. It is important to keep this in mind when planning meals or snacks throughout the day.
There is increasing evidence that processed food with high levels of salt and sugar can have a negative effect on our moods, which can then make it more likely that make further unhealthy food choices.
Spending twenty minutes a week meal planning is a great way of keeping your diet healthy, good value and interesting. The benefits of meal planning extend beyond health benefits – you’ll waste less food and could even save money on your weekly shop.
“My partner and I started meal planning about three years ago. This was partly to ensure we were working better as a team with planning, buying and cooking healthier meals – we used to silently hope that the other was cooking a deliciously healthy dinner, which more often than not meant we ate late and not always that well. What this planning achieved is a list of delicious meals we can pick and choose from each evening. We know they’re quick to cook and the ingredients are in the kitchen. Not only are we eating better as a result, we’re wasting less food, saving money and the whole process has become an enjoyable part of our routine.”Paul, Partnerships Director
How can I start to meal plan? British Heart Foundation’s guide to health meal planning
Meditation is another tool you can use in order to naturally and simply reduce stress levels. It’s a way of tapping into our natural ability to deal with that sense of overwhelm that can creep up on us.
This may involve simply sitting quietly and focusing on your breath for five minutes each day or longer periods as you get more comfortable with it. There are many different types of meditation available online or through apps such as Headspace that will provide step by step guidance if you need it.
Or Co-Founder, Tim, recommends this simple guide to box breathing technique by Conscious Works to get you started.
4. The great outdoors
Spending time outdoors is something everyone should try doing more often; whether it’s going for a walk at lunchtime or hiking through nature trails there are options available for all skill levels so don’t miss out on them just because the weather or fitness levels makes them less accessible than usual.
Even the busiest city has green space somewhere and taking the time to find it regularly can really contribute to positive mental fitness levels.
“The Ordnance Survey app has been brilliant for me and my family. Wherever we are in the U.K. we can search the app for walking, hiking and cycling routes that meet all levels of fitness, age, ability and time available. We use it to explore new areas and even find new walks where we live. Check it out here.”Paul, Partnerships Director
5. Look at the bigger picture
It’s easy for small, apparently urgent things in life to overtake our attention and contribute to stress levels.
Simply taking the time out to step back from the day-to-day – reinforced with breathing exercises – is a great way to help you focus on what’s important and work out how to achieve it.
I recently came across a quote on a memorial bench which really struck a chord. “Think about all the things you have to be thankful for in life and list them all one-by-one.”
6. In the workplace
At The Eleos Partnership, we understand that having the resources, structure and confidence to talk openly about mental health is vital for a positive workplace culture and individual mental fitness, which is why we created the Genesis programme.
Weekly 20-30 minute Genesis sessions are a great way to explore and improve mental fitness as teams.
They’re also a great way to improve workplace culture, as they help people understand their place within the organisation and how they can play an important role in its success.
There are a lot of different ways to stay mentally fit, and it’s important not to get stuck in one way of doing things. Try different things out until you find things that works for you.
A lot of this comes down to understanding that we’re not really that well calibrated for living in the 21st century; we are designed to move, to connect with other humans, to live in nature but for many of us, that’s not our daily existence.
We weren’t designed to spend our days hunched over laptops, eating processed foods being bombarded with information overload and all of those things are taking their toll on our mental health.
Making the effort to live as we were designed will have a huge impact on your mental fitness.
But, this isn’t easy, and we need to take – rather than just think about – action. The disappointing thing in a world where we can get an app for almost everything, nobody else can do this for us. It’s not easy but involving friends, family and our wider network, setting achievable goals and keeping it simple means that we can take small steps in the right direction.
If you would like to learn how you can mitigate moral injury and burnout in your organisation, please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
Written by: Paul Sykes, Partnerships Director