What exactly does mental fitness mean?
Let me illustrate with an analogy. Our brain is like a muscle. When you do bicep curls, for example, the action sends a communication to the brain saying, “rebuild this muscle stronger next time so that we can more easily lift this weight.”
This example is analogous to mental processes, such as math or memorization; you can strengthen your ability to do math, and your ability to memorize things.
Therefore, mental fitness means elevating your mind to such a level that it is balanced in all areas, and strong in the mental areas that are most important to you. This mental strengthening happens inside the brain, and is known as neuroplasticity. It refers, in part, to the strengthening of neural pathways.
Now the question becomes, how do you elevate your mind to such a level?
Before I answer that, it is useful to understand the distinction between the brain and the mind. The brain is an organ in your skull, and the head of your central nervous system, which controls all biological processes such as senses, digestion, heartbeat, thinking and learning. The mind is an unseen entity, that may or may not exist beyond the confines of the brain, and is even referred to by some as an energetic field in and around your body, that can be broken down into the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. The philosopher Descartes believed that the pineal gland inside your brain “transmits” the frequency field of the mind. I don’t know if that has been scientifically proven, but the point is that the brain generates the mind. Abstract mental processes such as critical thinking and imagination take place in the conscious mind.
There are 5 primary ways to achieve optimal mental fitness:
1. Brain training games
2. Imagination practice
3. Practicing the everyday mental processes most important to you
4. Mental supplements or brain supplements
Brain Training Games
There are many brain training games out there, but—in my opinion— the ones that are most intentionally and scientifically created and studied are the ones your find on Lumosity.com. Other games that are good for brain training are Sudoku, and any board game that requires you to think. The great thing about brain training games is that they are fun and engaging! Brain training games compare to actual mental processes—such as math—are like how playing soccer (or your favorite sport) compares to jogging. It is much more engaging, fun, and you burn tons of calories and build tons of muscle without even thinking about it!
Most people don’t consciously realize this, but your imagination is actually one of your most powerful tools for creating a life that you love, and doing, being and having what you truly desire in life. Before you can have something, or do something, or be something you want, you must first imagine it. And, imagination actually supports bringing that thing into your reality! Earl Nightingale—one of the fathers of the self-development industry—said, “you become what you think about most of the time.” He also later said, “you get what you think about most of the time.” As you use your imagination more and more to imagine the things your heart truly desires in life, you expand its power. As you expand its power, you increase your ability to manifest your desire. For those reasons, strengthening your imagination muscle may one of the most beneficial uses of your time.
Practicing Everyday Mental Processes
This refers to the practical things you use in everyday life, such as reading, remembering, critical thinking, ideating, adding, subtracting, etc. I find that one of the best ways I can exercise these mental muscles is by intentionally using them when I’m out and
about. For example, when I go to a party, I usually meet dozens of people. I always consciously make a point to remember each persons name. The way I do this is by looking into their eyes, repeating their name aloud right when they say it to me, and then associating their name with something that is already in my memory. So, if I meet someone named Sarah, I will think about all the other Sarahs I know, and place this woman in my imagination with the group of Sarahs I already know. There are multiple other ways to do this, and it can be done with all the different types of mental processes. The key is being conscious and intentional about using and exercising the processes in everyday life.
Mental Supplements or Brain Supplements
Just like your muscles need protein and other nutrients to grow, your brain and mind use certain nutrients to grow. There are a few primary nutrients that support your brain and mind.
essential fatty acids are what most of your brain tissue is made and regenerated from. Primary sources are chia seeds, flax seeds, fish oil and organic eggs.
is the purest, most bioavailable source of choline. Choline makes acetylcholine in the brain, which helps you learn, focus, recall memories and control your muscles. Alpha-GPC is also shown to promote neurogenesis, which is the production of new brain cells!
I created a product called BrainJuice that has acetylcholine support and omega-3 support.
Open-mindedness can be broken down into two parts: 1) willingness to learn, 2) willingness to accept change. In order to reach and maintain optimal mental fitness, one must be willing to learn and change. Why? Because we are dynamic beings, not static beings. That means that we are just like a flower: at any given time, we are either growing or dying. There is no true stagnation. This means that at any moment of your life—including this one—you can check in with yourself to see if you are growing or dying in this moment, because it is one of the two. The way you keep your brain and mind growing is by feeding it new information, and by being willing to replace old patterns or beliefs that are no longer serving you. Are you happy in your life right now? Then it may be time to open your mind further and change some of your beliefs. As the old saying goes, “if you continue to think as you’ve always thought, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” If you want things to change in your life, you have to change things in your life. And you can start by changing your mind.
If you master each of these, you will cultivate an incredibly fit mind. Godspeed!