Most people know the importance of regular physical exercise. However, few people know that proper mental fitness training is also very important for overall health and optimum well-being.
Just as stretching, cardio and strength training are the three foundation stones of physical fitness (along with adequate sleep and healthy nutrition, of course) there are also three crucial components of mental or emotional fitness, namely affirmation, visualization, and relaxation.
Let's take a closer look at these three essential aspects of mental fitness:
1 - Affirmation
Basically, affirmation involves self-talk. Simply stating to yourself certain positive messages actually activates specific neural pathways that when strengthened tend to promote self-esteem and well-being. For example, reminding yourself of things like "I'm okay just the way I am;" and "I'm a good person even if I make mistakes;" or "I'm good enough, I don't have to be perfect" will bring up your mood and increase your self-esteem.
2 - Visualisation
The major types of visualisation techniques to use are goal images, for example "seeing" yourself having achieved a specific goal or outcome (such as eating a healthy dinner); and process images where you imagine yourself taking the specific action steps needed to achieve your goal (such as buying broccoli and cooking whole-grain pasta); and relaxation imagery (such as picturing yourself on a beautiful beach during a perfect summer day).
3 - Relaxation
Various forms of relaxation training have been used for centuries as a way for people to gain control (and even mastery) of many of their physical systems such as reducing arousal in their nervous system and calming tension in their muscles.
Just as there are several types of affirmations and visualisation methods, there are a variety of relaxation techniques that can be used to good effect. Some people do well with progressive relaxation that involves alternating between tensing muscle groups and then letting them unwind. Other people find simply letting go of tension in their muscles without first tensing them works better. Other relaxation methods include meditation and some of the visualisation techniques noted above.
Ultimately, by working out with these exercises in the gymnasium of your mind you'll beef up your mental muscles and strengthen your overall well-being.
Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!
Copyright by: Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.