Building mental muscle: applying physical training principles to your brain

We all know that training our bodies physically helps us to avoid physical illness. Well thanks to the intersection between psychology and neuroscience we now also know that we can train our brains mentally to avoid mental illness and be totally awesome in the process.

So what do we mean by mental fitness? It’s the training we can do for our brains to increase our unhelpful neural wiring which has two great results – to help you to be more successful and increase the likelihood of achieving your goals and also to avoid the likelihood of suffering from mental health problems. Exercises like our “#crushinglife” where you get excited by the littlest things as though they are really big things are really useful in creating helpful neural pathways.

And there are plenty of principles that apply to both physical and mental training. Here are just a handful:

Don’t wait till race day to start training

It would be a pretty dumb idea to turn up to run a marathon without having done some running (and probably a lot of it) in the months leading up to the race. Likewise, you don’t want to leave your mental training until the time you need to deal with a stressful experience. That’s race day – not a time for practice. So if anyone tells you that you can only build resilience by having bad experiences….. well…..make sure you don’t hire them as your performance coach!

Training doesn’t last – you need to keep at it

Just like you don’t go to the gym and get fit and say “great, now that’s done, I’m fit for life and I don’t need to do this anymore”, the same happens with mental fitness. Stop training it and your mental fitness will go backwards.

Genetics play a role

Genetics play a role in your natural physical and mental fitness levels. Not everyone is built to run a marathon easily. While most people can be trained to run one if they want to, genetics will mean that the training plan and the end result will vary from person to person.

Likewise, some people have certain genes and neurochemical variations which may lead them to be more likely to suffer from mental ill-health than others. Again, doesn’t mean that all people can’t be mentally healthy, there are just different training plans and that’s ok.

It’s easier not to train so you need good habits to make sure it happens

I won’t lie. I really like exercise and even I still find it way easier to sit on the couch and eat a chicken schnitzel burger. But I know that my brain works way better when I’m physically fit – so I teach fitness classes, meet friends to run with at certain times and basically set up good habits so that it happens.

Likewise with my mental fitness, I use the trigger of sleep time to think about all the good things that happened that day and what I’m excited about for the future. I also do a lot of #crushinglife with my amazing fiancée and our friends.

Get a coach

I have a personal trainer to ensure my technique for weights is spot on. And I used a running coach to master my running technique to avoid injuries and improve my half marathon time to just outside the top 1% of females (28 seconds away from my personalised name bib and preferred entry). I also have access to amazing mindset coaches who I use to get me out of my own head whenever required. (Yep that happens here and there J)

Your tribe is crucial

It’s pretty hard to lose weight when all your friends in your social circle are overweight and love going out for meals. It’s far easier to stay fit when you have healthy friends and going for a run becomes social.

Likewise, if you are trying to improve your mindset and you are surrounded by negative people, it might be time to do some “social circle spring cleaning”.

Both make good business sense

Mental fitness and physical fitness are absolutely linked and both increase productivity, reduce friction in the workplace and ultimately lead to a greater level of success – in whatever that means to you.

So if you would like to know more about how we can help you to train your mental fitness for success, please do get in touch.Contact