04 Feb Making Your Mind Fit
I meet many clients who are on the journey to creating a healthier lifestyle, getting fitter or losing weight. They may have started a new diet or increased their exercise regime. They may have added in yoga or meditation to their day or started a new gym class.
Unfortunately, many who begin their quest to drop the kilos or cut out the sugar fall off the ‘health wagon’ within a short period of time. Why? Because they haven’t changed their mindset. To execute new behaviours that will eventually become habits that we enjoy, we need to make lasting changes and that all comes down to making your mind fit.
Our minds become overwhelmed by life’s triggers
When we’re trying to adhere to a healthier lifestyle it might seem like a constant battle as we compare short-term desires, like sugar, with our end goal. Do you want that chocolate bar for instant satisfaction or is your goal of getting your weight to a healthy level more important?
A great deal of focus and attention is required during this mental batter, which mainly gets given to the prefrontal cortex area of our brain where are thoughts, emotions and decision making are regulated.
Although this area of our brain is highly intelligent, it is vulnerable to stress, which can dramatically impede its ability to function. Ever been stressed with the pile of work at your desk and headed to the cookie jar or for a coffee? This is because your brain is overwhelmed, but thankfully we can change the way our mind responds to these triggers.
As we go through experiences and our thoughts evolve throughout our life, so does our structural and connective tissue of the brain. These constant changes mean we can develop skills and behaviours, like improve our self-control, even if they don’t come naturally to us. Willpower for example, isn’t a trait that some of us are born with and some are not. It’s a skill and like a muscle, with a little work it can be built up.
This is what we call “mind fit”.
Making your mind fit is a skill that will help you reach your goals
As we focus on a particular skill that can help us feel more in charge of our decisions, we develop mind-fitness. Take self-regulation for example; a skill that we need if you are trying to lose or sustain weight loss. Improving your self-regulation skills helps you remain clear-headed when you feel under pressure. It enables you to be more objective to consider your short-term desires versus your big-picture goals. This gives you better impulse control, which is vital in situations where you are stressed, over-tired or emotional.
Slowing down and giving yourself the time to focus on the moment-to-moment experiences helps you develop mind-fitness. Switching from the negative self-talk to a more positive voice helps activate areas of the brain which are linked to self-relevance and value. This helps us develop skills (like self-regulation) to keep us on track with our wellness goals.
It’s not all about diet and how often you exercise. It’s not just about whether your cheat meal turned into a day this week or how you skipped a few gym sessions. Creating a healthier lifestyle is also about getting mind fit. It’s about identifying your triggers and focusing on developing the skills to better handle situations when they arise. Making your mind fit may just make you unstoppable!