When you hear the words “mental health”, what comes to mind?
Chances are you jump to the thought of a person (or yourself) in a mentally unwell state. But it’s mental health we’re talking about, so why don’t we consider both ends of the spectrum?
It’s Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the States, which got us thinking about all of this. We are incredibly passionate and supportive of efforts to bring greater awareness, understanding, and positive action to mental illness so anyone struggling can get the help they need free of judgment or stigma. However, as a society, we’ve developed a tendency of equating the term Mental Health with Mental Illness, so when we talk about mental health we’re only focused on one side of it. That’s something that needs to change.
Your mental health is something to celebrate, to work on, and to strengthen where possible — exactly like your physical health through diet and exercise. That’s why this week we want to talk about the concept of mental fitness.
Think of your brain like a muscle; just as you need to stay active and workout regularly to keep your muscles strong, you need to exercise your brain and treat it well to keep it at optimal functioning. Your mental fitness is crucial to your overall wellbeing; consider it the foundation that allows you to build wellness in all other aspects of your life. Strong mental fitness trickles into everything else you do and fortifies it.
Of course, being mentally fit is not a guarantee against mental illness; just as being physically fit won’t prevent you from getting sick.
There are risk factors and situations that can threaten your mental health. A recent study identified key contributors to mental health complications during the prenatal and postnatal period, a time when women are at a higher risk of mental health issues. Risk factors include a family history of mental illness, stressful life events, pregnancy and/or birth complications, and social or financial struggles – to name a few.
Here’s what you can take away from that: mental illness is not your fault. But working towards mental fitness is your fight, and we want to help arm you with the right tools and information to keep you as mentally fit as possible.
Good mental fitness requires commitment and consistency, so remember that it’s not about making one change, but adopting healthier behaviors that can grow with you and last over time. With that in mind, here are a few effective and sustainable ways to maintain your mental fitness:
1. Daily Meditations To Reset Your Mind
Think of meditations as recovery sessions for your mind. Just as you need sleep at the end of a long day to recharge, meditations can do the same for your mental state. Even a minute or two of guided, slow breathing can lower your heart rate, regulate your blood pressure, and relax your muscles by reducing your stress response.
Taking just a few minutes every day to check in with yourself, get in touch with your thoughts, and ground yourself in the present moment is such an important skill when it comes to building good mental fitness. Think of your daily meditations as your 10,000 steps.
The best part is, meditation only takes a few minutes out of your day. Our breathing exercises and guided meditations in the app are quick, easy, and effective.
2. Practicing Body Love & Being Confident In Your Skin!
The theme of this year’s mental health awareness week is #bebodykind, and it’s all about body image, learning to love the body you are in and celebrating your strength.
A positive body image is so essential to your mental fitness – as body appreciation is linked to better overall well-being and fewer unhealthy dietary patterns. For more on that see the Mental Health Foundation’s latest Body Image Report.
Practicing positive affirmations, surrounding yourself with people that show up and show love for you, and staying active regularly are all great ways to nurture your own body confidence. For more ways to foster a positive body image, be sure to check out our post on 8 Ways To Stay Body Confident.
3. Eat Nutrient-Dense Food to Fuel Your Brain
Your diet impacts so many things, and that definitely includes your mental fitness. It’s as simple as this: the food we eat provides the fuel our bodies (and our brains) use to function. The cleaner the fuel, the better the engine can work.
A balanced diet that places an emphasis on healthy fats, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, nutrient-dense foods (hello fruits and veg!), and plenty of water supports healthy neurotransmitter function in your brain, helping to protect you from oxidants that can cause damage and negatively impact mood and mental health.
You can read all about the food that supports optimal brain function and promotes mental fitness on our blog here.
When we talk about mental health we want it to be treated just like any other aspect of your health (because, well, it is). Just as there is more work we can do to treat mental illness, there is work that can be done to strengthen mental fitness.
We want to help you feel as comfortable talking about your mental health as you are about your physical health, and that’s why we’re committed to promoting mental fitness at Baby2Body.
Join us by sharing your favorite way to work on your mental fitness by posting to Instagram, tagging us @baby2bodyofficial and using #mymentalfitness.