How to build mental fitness
31 Aug 2022

How to build mental fitness

Written by: Frankie Health

Just as we can train our bodies to go for a walk or scale a mountain, we can train our brains to solve problems, handle stress and adopt a more positive mindset. Regardless of age or life stage, the brain is a muscle. Muscles can be strengthened with exercises and healthy habits – and yet, the term “mental fitness” is relatively new to the game.

Building mental fitness is a key aspect of maintaining overall health, boosting self-esteem, optimizing your sense of well-being and building mental stability.

Read on to unpack the importance of mental fitness in your everyday life. There are simple ways we can train our brains to get those reps in.

What is mental fitness?

Mental fitness is an overall sense of emotional and personal well-being.

Just like physical fitness, it's a spectrum, not a destination. Your brain is a malleable learning machine, so it’s no surprise that it’ll change throughout your lifespan. Significant life events, the quality of our relationships, the seasons, our daily habits and our age are just a few factors that impact our mental health.

Our understanding of mental fitness has expanded thanks to the study of neuroplasticity – an umbrella term that tells us how our brains naturally evolve in response to our experiences. We now have a deeper understanding of how specific exercises can develop our brains and transform the way we live our lives.

What does a mental workout mean?

To build resilience, our bodies need to be challenged and trained – and so do our brains. For example, if you run the same route regularly, you most likely do so on autopilot. You don’t need to think about it too deeply. But if you moved to a different country and started to explore new streets, your brain would have to work harder.

That’s exactly what mental fitness is all about: keeping your brain active and flexible. To change things up, you’ll need to give your brain’s well-worn neural pathways – the connections you’ve built through years of habits and routine – a bit of a workout.

But mental fitness doesn’t just mean being “harder, better, faster, stronger” (although the benefits of blasting Daft Punk are yet to be fully explored). It’s also about being grounded, grateful, empathetic and present. This internal framing can ultimately increase our intellectual stamina and improve our performance.

5 noticeable benefits of mental fitness

Here are just a few of the many benefits of taking the time to build your cognitive capabilities:

Problem-solving skills:

Meet challenges with a sense of calm, creativity and possibility. Overcoming new challenges develops self-confidence whilst mapping out new neural pathways.

Stronger relationships:

From unconscious biases to negative assumptions, our brains love to jump to conclusions. Challenging those assumptions can improve our ability to relate to others. Increased empathy can improve relationships with loved ones, colleagues – and yourself.

Better physical health:

Mental fitness can improve your physical well-being (and vice versa). People who report having positive emotions more frequently are less likely to experience chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes.

Improved memory:

Having a positive outlook on life can be a brain-saver. According to research published in Aging & Mental Health, optimism is associated with better memory, improved cognitive function, and a lower long-term risk of dementia.

More happiness:

Just as it’s easy to get caught in a stagnant pattern of physical inactivity, it’s easy for thoughts to get stuck in a rut. Easier said than done, we know, but research shows that we can break negative cycles by training ourselves to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

Brain workouts to start today

Building mental fitness begins with developing a greater awareness of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs. From there, it’s easier to consciously change existing patterns and move through your day-to-day life with less resistance and more resilience.

Here are some tried-and-true ways to flex those brain muscles.

Practice mindfulness:

Take a few moments each day to notice your thoughts as they come up without judgment. Try to find the space between where one thought ends and another begins.

Stay physically active:

The mind-body connection is real. Studies have found that physical exercise can boost mood, increase self-esteem and improve cognitive function. If it’s been a while since you worked out, don’t stress: three 10-minute walks a day can lead to many of the same benefits.

Play games:

Some of life’s most valuable lessons are learnt through games. But as we get older, our playful side can get left behind. Games such as crosswords, board games, and logic exercises can help to boost memory and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Challenge yourself:

Give your brain a workout by actively (and, when possible, calmly) stepping out of your comfort zone. Whether you’re exploring existing hobbies or learning something new, overcoming hurdles and expanding your skillset can provide a sense of purpose and passion.

Mental fitness in the workplace

At work, cognitive flexibility is a precious asset. People who can think on their feet and face difficult conversations with empathy and confidence make for better collaborators, listeners and leaders. Over 60% of managers say the traits they value most in employees – like active engagement, working well in a team and staying on top of the latest technological advances – are related to mental fitness.

Looking to bring wellness into the workplace? Here are some ideas to get you started.

✔️Set friendly team competition

Work in departments (or randomly allocated teams) to encourage team building. Earn points for every activity a team member completes. Try mindful meditations, morning yoga, quick HIIT workouts, sleep stories and more.

✔️Promote mid-day self-care

Take a walk, phone a friend, race to the gym – whatever you do, take that lunch break. Creating a company culture that promotes taking breaks can actually increase the team’s productivity.

✔️Initiate a mentorship or buddy programme

This is a great way to pass on valuable information and normalise asking for help as a sign of strength, collaboration and growth.

✔️Encourage a positive feedback culture

Spotlight a colleague’s recent achievement, thank a department for meeting a tight deadline or send a quick note to say you value someone’s positive approach to work. Bonus points if you create a #feedbackfriday channel on an existing team tool (like Microsoft Teams, Slack or Sharing positive shoutouts publicly is a great way to make team members feel appreciated.

✔️Start a Workplace Wellbeing Committee

Send an open invitation to the company. Meet once a month or once a quarter to plan fun events and activities. Organise everything from Friday afternoon hikes to paint and Prosecco happy hours. Go on, bookmark this page for ideas!

Depending on the style and size of your organisation, some of these ideas may have to come from management. Simplify and adapt them as needed.

Is there a workplace wellness platform to help?

You’re in the right place. Frankie delivers personalised employee mental health support with real results. We offer exercises that develop mental fitness, whilst allowing employees to easily book video calls with coaches and therapists.

Whether you’re looking for tools to reduce burnout or increase team morale, Frankie’s data-driven platform will help you build a wellness movement with just a few clicks. Come say hi!