There you are at your favorite department store. You have an event to go to this weekend and you want to wear something new. You have plenty of clothes in your closet but this event will be fun so you decide to splurge. The last time you bought some clothes was for a different reason. Your pants started to get a little tight and that men’s 36 waist just wasn’t comfortable anymore. You were forced to buy a size 38. For the ladies that size 6 dress was just too snug and you had to move up to a 10. You didn’t really enjoy that shopping trip because it let you know that you had let things go too far. You had put on too much weight.
That was 3 months ago and you’ve been putting in work over the last 90 days. You just finished a 12-week exercise program and you got the results you were expecting. You smile from ear to ear when you put on the 36 and they are loose. You can’t stop looking at your profile in the full-length mirror in the dressing room with that hot size 6 dress on. You are glowing because you are in great shape and you did the work to get there. All of that sweat, time and effort was worth it.
We all love the stories of people who worked out and achieved the results they desired. TV shows like The Biggest Loser or Celebrity Fit Club were all relatively popular. You can open up Instagram and see hundreds of likes for the before and after picture side by side on a post. Physical health is always easy to see from the outside.
Yet what about your mental health, how do you measure how good it is? Yes you know when you are down. You know when you are unhappy. You know when you are undesirably stressed. You know when you are angry and upset. Too much of any of those mental states is not good for you, yet what do you do to avoid them? How do you know how you measure up? There is no machine you can place your head in and be shown where your mental health is on a scale to 1 to 10. Yet if that machine did exist you would all want a 10. We would all strive to improve our mental health if anything less than a 10 flashed across the screen.
What Exercise Would You Do?
What if you did use this mythical machine and you walked out with a rating of 4? What would you do? When you are not as physically fit as you would like to be you have many choices. You can join a gym. You can hire a personal trainer. You can buy an exercise program and follow it in the comfort of your home.
In all of those cases you will do specific exercises that should return a specific benefit. You will do cardio to burn fat and build endurance. You will lift weights to build muscle so you can burn fat when you aren’t working out. You will do stretches to help your muscles recover for the next round of exercises. You will do core exercises to strengthen your core. You will do compound body weight exercises that work several muscles at once to get enhanced results. You will do leg day to concentrate on sculpting your thighs, hamstrings and calves.
Those exercises are all focused physical exercises that result in specific results. The same is true for mental fitness. Mental exercises exist that are just as easy to list and are just as, if not more, important as the physical exercises. Just like the physical fitness you have options on how you can improve your mental fitness. You can hire a life coach or personal development guru. You can buy a meditation app and follow the 30-day program that comes with it to start. You can buy a book and follow the exercises prescribed by the author. The only difference is there aren’t mental gyms sprinkled on multiple corners in your community. You will have to create your own gym. You will have to create your own LA Fitness for your mind. To maintain or improve your mental fitness you will have to visit your own gym often.
To help you build your own gym here are some common exercises along with their benefit.
Meditation – Meditation is a tool that allows you to pause from all the distractions of the outside world and focus on connecting with your inner source of power. By practicing meditation, you recharge your mind, body and soul.
Scripting – Scripting is the exercise of writing down your desires as you would like them to play out in real life. This exercises your subconscious mind by planting seeds that can cultivate throughout your day. The more seeds you plant the more harvest you will collect.
Visualization – Visualization is the practice of using your mind to see things exactly as you desire them to play out as well. Visualization and scripting go hand in hand. You can’t write what you can’t see. However, you can visualize your desires without writing.
Practicing Gratitude – Practicing gratitude is the exercise of acknowledging what you do have and being happy for it. This exercise shifts your thinking from what you don’t have to what you do have. You will attract what you think about so you should think about what you do have so you can attract more of it. This will also move you immediately into a state of happiness. The most effective way to practice gratitude is to actually write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for and why. You can just think of them but writing is more effective.
Celebrating Wins – Celebrating is the exercise of rewarding yourself for a job well done. The more you acknowledge the things you do well the more you will appreciate the things you can do. This will make it easier to not only feel good about yourself but it will make it easier to find things to be grateful for when practicing gratitude.
Goal Setting – Goal setting is the exercise of focused thinking on the things you desire and your approach to achieve them. That approach is usually a detailed plan of things you will do to meet the goal and when you will do them. As you meet your goals you will become more confident in your abilities to do even more. Achieving a goal will also give you more opportunities to celebrate which leads to more opportunities to practice gratitude.
Reading – Reading is the easiest of all mental exercises to understand. When you read you force your mind to work as it reads and comprehends every word it sees. When your mind works to comprehend information, it stores that information in places that can be accessed at later dates. This is different than sitting back and watching a television show or even listening to a speaker. Reading makes your mind work harder and therefore you get more out of the exercise. You remember more. You learn more. Every successful leader has been a great reader.
Now that you know the details about some of the mental fitness exercises here is a sample 12-week plan (click to LinkedIn logo to open file in another tab):
At first glance this may seem like a lot of exercises. This is just an example. Every one of you is unique and will have a unique plan. The point of the example is to show you that you need to think about your mental exercise just as much as you do about your physical exercise. The consequences of a lack of physical exercise along with a bad diet could lead to health issues.
The consequence of a lack of mental exercise along with no motivation could lead to a mediocre life. You don’t want a mediocre life. You want to live the dream. You want to share your gifts with the world. You want to be the person you were born to be on this earth. Take this reminder and evaluate your mental exercise game. If your current routine needs improving go ahead and improve it. Your exceptional life is relying on you to do so. As always I wish you the best and remind you to enjoy the journey.