If you follow us on Instagram, you probably see us talk about mental fitness a lot.
And you may be thinking… what does that even mean? Should my mind be fit? Should i be exercising my brain? Should it lift weights… like my biceps?
The answer is yes! Yes, you should — and today, Baby2Body founder and sports psychologist, Melinda, is going to tell you how. But first, let’s talk about why we’re passionate about mental fitness now more than ever.
We’re all (for the most part) socially isolated from other people right now, and that’s not great for our mental health. Social interaction does loads of good for our mental state — it makes us feel connected, and as humans, we need to feel like we’re part of a bigger world: it’s life affirming!
Now more than ever, it’s crucial to take care of your mental health. One of the best ways to do that is through practicing mental fitness — and this is where the idea of “working your brain like your biceps” comes in. Think about it like this: every time you exercise (like lifting a weight) you’re creating micro-tears in your muscles. As your muscles recover from the strain of the workout, they get stronger — and your mind works the same way. It sounds a little out there, but it’s completely attainable, and we’re going to teach you how.
We’re turning it over to Melinda: she’s going to walk you through establishing your mental fitness practice as if you were one of her clients.
Let’s get started…
Just like you would structure a program for your physical fitness — like a weekly workout plan — you need to do the same for your mental fitness. Structure is crucial to keeping you motivated, on-track, and moving forward.
Practicing mental fitness will ultimately help you develop your resilience, which allows you to stay strong when life presents you with challenges. Your mind is a muscle, and exercising it regularly is essential to building up this mental strength and resilience that supports your mental health. It’s something that needs to be part of your routine just as much as your physical fitness does.
I recommend you start with 3 days of mental fitness exercises per week, and as they become a more normal part of your routine, move up to 5. I totally get it: as mothers, we’re all so busy, and it can be difficult to find time to fit in time for these exercises. But trust me: they’ll pay dividends down the line, and they’ll allow you to make the most of the rest of your hours of your day.
These 5 exercises are the building blocks of an effective mental fitness regime
1. Guided breathing
This doesn’t need to be half an hour of sitting in a cross-legged position with your hands in meditation prayer. It could be a simple 5-minute guided breathing exercise — and we have these in the app for free! Try it out here. I use these when I’m having a busy or stressful day, and just need to take a step back and catch my breath. It’s so powerful to just press “pause” and breathe in…. and out. It really settles you, and makes you feel so much more grounded — it’s an essential part of your self-care toolkit.
When you’re busy, your mind can feel cluttered — and you can find yourself overwhelmed as your brain jumps between different tasks and worries. A great way to still your mind is with visualization. I always think of the ocean (probably because I’m South African and grew up by the ocean), and it calms me down. Pause for a moment now and think of something that calms you: the flickering flame of your favorite candle, wind rustling gently through the leaves on the tree, or a positive memory that makes you feel happy. As you visualize this, bring your thoughts back to your breath, and keep them slow and steady.
Once a week, I try to listen to a podcast that is uplifting and makes me feel relaxed. Most of my time is spent focusing on business, fitness, nutrition (the list goes on!) so I make sure that it’s not related to any of those topics. I pick something a little bit different, such as philosophy, positive-thinking, or motivation — something that takes my mind away from the day-to-day grind. They really improve my mood, and I like to listen to them when I’m feeling a bit down (which let’s face it, we all do sometimes).
4. Body Scan
I put on a relaxing playlist (you can listen to one I love here), sit down, and focus on connecting with my body. Now, you’re going to “scan” your body from head to toe. Start at the top of your head and connect with how your physical body is feeling, and scan slowly down to your toes. Where are you holding tension? Does anything feel sore? Tight? Tense? Now, scan down your body by tensing individual muscles and relaxing them, one by one. You’ll feel amazing afterwards.
5. Gratitude Journaling
Once a day, I slow down to write (or mentally think through) 3 things I’m grateful for. I love to do this in the evening before I go to bed. This is my processing time at the end of the day, but pick whatever time of day makes the most sense to you. There’s something really powerful about actively recognizing what you’re grateful for.
Try putting these in your calendar throughout the week, just like you would schedule a meeting or a workout. It’s really rewarding to tick them off, and it increases your self-efficacy, which is your belief in yourself that you are capable of achieving what you set out to do.
It’s taken a long time to get to the point where I know what works for me. The same will be true for you: if you’re new to mental fitness, it will take a little time to figure out what works for you, but you’ll get there. The important thing is to stay consistent — you’ll see real change, and it’s incredibly rewarding!
Let me know what mental fitness practices work for you, and if you have any questions for me, just send me a DM on the Baby2Body Instagram, I’ll be more than happy to answer.
Have you tried the free guided breathing in the Baby2Body app yet? If not, give it a try by downloading the app here.