Buzz... Buzz... Sigh. Another notification, another reminder, another text message, another voicemail. How can a person hear their own thoughts in the midst of the chaos we endure daily?
Often times when we think of fitness, we think of the superficial aspects of fitness… six pack abs, sexy legs, lean waists, and chiseled physiques. What about fitness in the mind, though? What about mental health? Can you truly perform your best physically when you’re on the verge of a breakdown?
I spent the past week without a phone, and took the weekend to surf the Oregon coast with some great friends, and let me tell you... Not having my phone telling me where I needed to be/when I needed to be there or being distracted by social media gave me time to be present, time to reflect, time to hear my own thoughts, time to feel my emotions, and has rekindled a relationship with myself that I've been neglecting. My newfound mental clarity has not only positively impacted my daily attitude, but it has also positively impacted my performance in the gym/during my outdoor activities.
This article has been a long time coming, and the timing felt right after my experience this past weekend. That being said, here are 5 ways to improve your fitness on the mental/emotional level.
1. Spend Time In Nature- There is nothing like a breathtaking view to remind you just how small you really are in the grand scheme of the universe. Whether you’re hiking, fishing, hunting, mountain biking, skiing, surfing, or snowboarding, you’re bound to have a moment of awe of the shear magnitude of all that surrounds us. Getting away from the busy buzz of street noise, and viewing life through your perspective lense rather than the lense of a phone can do a lot to free up some headspace.
2. Do Something Spontaneous- Who said that weekends were the only time you could set aside work and have some fun? “I don’t have the time,” is a shitty excuse, by the way. The reason it’s a poor excuse is that you’re never going to “find the time.” There is going to be 24 hours today, just like there will be 24 hours tomorrow, just like there will be 24 hours the next day. As comfortable as routine is, it is easy to get stuck in a mental rut. Sometimes shaking things up mid-week is all you need to get your mental health back on track!
3. Meditate- Meditation doesn’t have to be seated, by the way. Meditation can be done in the form of movement practices like Yin Yoga, Thai Chai, or nature walks/jogs. The nice thing about a moving meditation is that it distracts the monkey mind revolving around what you need to get done, and allows you to dive into what’s on your heart rather than what’s on your mind. I personally prefer guided meditations. Two free apps I would highly suggest are Headspace and Stop, Breathe, and Think. Meditation is hands down the best habit I have picked up in the past 3 years, and has done wonders for my mindset, as well as my workouts.
4. Unplug- Like I said previously in this article, I spent the last week without a phone, and although it wasn’t by choice (my phone flat out stopped working mid-text message) it was incredible. You would be surprised how much arguments on the web, negativity in your news feed, and the constant buzz of notifications take a toll on your mental well-being. I challenge you to try taking a couple days every few weeks to unplug from your phone/laptop to see how much time you actually spend mindlessly surfing the web. You just might “find the time” to take part in those activities you’ve been neglecting ;)
5. 10 minutes of “Me Time"- If I were to ask you, “Do you give yourself 10 minutes of quiet time each day,” would you answer yes, or no? From my experience as a coach, most will answer with the latter. Quiet time can be spent doing a number of things…. Reading, knitting, drawing, staring at the wall (we have all had those days), painting, meditating, coloring in those awesome adult coloring books (those things are RAD), working on cars, and listening to relaxing music (ideally free of lyrics so you can hear your own thoughts rather than the words of the song… Explosions In The Sky, Antoine Dufour, and Andy Mckee are all worth checking out) are all examples of activities you could do for quiet time. Whatever you choose, though, it should fill you up, relax you, and SHOULD NOT feel like a task you need to scratch off your “to-do list.”
If you read this entire article in hopes of discovering a new method to improve your mental health only to find that you knew all of the above tips…. I am about to give you some tough love. KNOWLEDGE isn’t the issue. IMPLEMENTATION is the issue. Many of us know how to decompress and improve our mental well-being. Very few of us, however, actually do it. That being said, I challenge you to IMPLEMENT at least one of the above tips, and to be CONSISTENT with whatever method you choose.
Believe me when I say that your mental well-being, AND physical well-being, will soar upon the implementation of any of the 5 tips above that speak to you.
If you know of anyone who would benefit from this article, please share this with them so they too can thrive. Rooting for your success, my friend.
Until next time, Stay humble. Stay Hungry. Stay Happy.