How I stay Mentally Fit
We live in a rapidly growing society with our throttles thrust full blast. I'm not telling you anything new. We hear phrases like "time is money," and "live life in the fast lane," but we often don't stop to recognize how this mentality affects us.
Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it. — Soren Kierkegaard
I love that quote. Faster is not always better. We need to learn to take a deep breath and join the slow movement to ensure our minds are staying as healthy as our bodies. Here are some practices I have implemented in my life to take care of my mind:
- I am actively involved in physical exercise. My average day begins and ends with me dripping with sweat. I love the feeling of my muscles burning from fatigue and that stiff ache you get the next morning. I know. I am weird. However, you don't need to "feel the burn," or "work until you drop" to get something out of physical exercise. In fact, half the reason I am so active is because of the mental exercise it provides me. That's right, work your body and your mind simultaneously. I would argue that over half of exercising is pushing your mental beyond your physical. While your body might be saying, "let's take a break," or "you're too tired to go for a walk," you must mentally overcome and push yourself. And when I do exercise, I often get lost in my thoughts, stretching and innovating ideas I have been recently pondering. By the end of my workout, I usually feel physically and mentally productive.
- I enjoy learning something new every day. I read a lot and listen to podcasts even more. Everyday I am actively seeking to learn something new. In fact, it's one of my "goals" (which I recommend setting for yourself) every day! I wrote in my post about a minister's mental health (which you can find here), that you must always "intake" more than you pour "out." Well, in my profession I am consistently pouring out knowledge, guidance, advice, and service to others, therefore I must discipline myself to provide a steady intake of these things. Learning something new can take on many forms. Reading is the most traditional form of learning, but you can learn through many avenues. To name a few: a conversation with someone over coffee about their life, an engaging philosophy podcast on the early thinkers, or even leaving your phone in the car as you go for a walk with your dog. Learning is simply paying attention as you step outside of the norm.
- I seek opportunities to be in nature. I have referenced this a couple times now because it is such a crucial element of my mental health. The smell of natural, crisp air, the warmth of the sun, the sound of birds chirping and squirrels rustling in the trees. Being outside rejuvenates me. When we sit on our couches at home, watching the latest series of Netflix while munching down on some Bluebell ice-cream, it is easy to see the accomplishments and ingenuity of humankind. Someone designed that couch just right, while somebody else created the accessibility to transpose images on a electronic box. You laugh and cry at the characters who were scripted by the creative thought of somebody else as you taste the creamy ice cream that again was created, packaged, and delivered to your convenience by someone. All great things, all created by man. However, when you take a step outside you are able to reconnect to the majesty and artistry of God's creation.
- I spend intentional time with family and friends. This is a big deal. Your family and friends are your tribe, and the ones who have and will be with you the longest in your lifetime. For that reason, seek out intentional time with them. What does it mean to be intentional? To be deliberate in your actions. To walk outside of your normal motions and to fully pour into something. Perhaps this means putting the distraction of your phone to the side, or learning to listen more than you do talk. Maybe instead of you all watching a movie together, you bust out a board-game, or go grab a snow-cone! My circle of friends schedule one day of the month to get together and play a board game. Sure, there are other times in the month when we might see each other, but this one day of the month we are intentional. This is a time we have established to give our undivided attention to one another. This has proven to be beneficial to our friendship. How does this manifest itself in your life? Maybe eating dinner around the table again, or visiting your grandma in person rather than simply posting 'happy birthday' on her Facebook wall every year. Regardless of how it looks, seek it.
- I move on from my failures. I learned this from my father-in-law, David Russell. David has a tendency of taking up new projects and hobbies on a whim, even if they don't evolve into anything. However, he is not afraid to start something new primarily because he is not afraid to fail. Sure, he is never aiming to fail, but if it does he does not allow himself to get caught there. We are not defined by our failures (hows that for a cliche), we are just molded by them. Consider some of these "failures:"
- Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star because his editor felt he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas."
- Steven Spielberg was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts multiple times.
- Thomas Edison's teachers told him he was "too stupid to learn anything."
- J.K. Rowling was a single mom living off welfare when she began writing the first "Harry Potter" novel.
- Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had his first book rejected by 27 different publishers.
These failures are mere pebbles in the road compared to the success these men and women would find in their lifetime. Just let your failures go. They are ugly, hideous things to hold on to, and you won't need them moving forward. As soon as I was able to clear my mind of my failures, the road forward became far clearer.
These are just a few ways I stay on top of my mental health. I hope you will find something relatable in my words, but even more so I hope you are challenged. Like our bodies, we have to stretch and stress our "brain muscles" in order to strengthen our minds. Theses practices are not easy by design, but they work.