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Mental Health or Mental Fitness?

These two phrases should mean the same thing, but most of us label mental health with mental health problems that we need to seek medical help for (talking therapy, medication etc). And yes, this is appropriate for some people but a lot of us could just use a little boost to our mental health.

That’s where the phrase “mental fitness” comes in handy. If we view our mental health as something to keep fit and healthy and needs some of our time and attention, just like our physical fitness, we’re one step closer to feeling good.

Stress and anxiety have a big physical effect on our bodies and are highly linked with muscle and joint pain. So, it makes sense for us to focus on this, not just to help our back and neck pain, but our overall health.

It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

Epictetus

I’m going to share with you two of my favourite mind techniques that can help boost your mental fitness during stressful times and have personally helped me through stressful points in my life.


Leaves On A Stream

This exercise is used to calm the constant chatter inside our heads. It helps us observe our thoughts, rather than becoming wrapped up in them.

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Firstly, close your eyes and focus on your breath and the rise and fall of your stomach. After a little while, become aware of the thoughts that pop into your mind. Imagine a stream, this can be somewhere you know, or something fictional. Observe your thoughts, and place them “on a leaf” onto the stream, watching them float away.

Place each thought that you notice onto a leaf, and watch it glide by. You do not have to search for thoughts or wait for them to arrive, just let them enter your mind, and when they do, simply put them on a new leaf and watch it float downstream.

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Your attention will wander from time to time, and when it does, that’s fine – that’s what minds do! As soon as you notice your mind wandering, congratulate yourself for noticing this, just gently bring your focus of attention back to placing your thoughts onto the leaves.

Continue to do this for a short time and when you’re ready, bring your attention back to your breath and open your eyes.


Problem Solving Waterfall

This is great for when you’ve a got a problem swirling around your mind.

If you’ve taken classes or read about using mindfulness, this is a great way of putting it into practice to help with everyday stress and over-thinking.

To do it, follow this simple flowchart:

Problem Solving Waterfall

 

Hopefully, those two simple exercises (which can be done almost everywhere!) will help you as much as they have me.

Let me know if you want to find out more about mindfulness, or have a chat with me about YOUR mental fitness at your next appointment.

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