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What Is Mental Fitness? How to Keep Your Brain in Shape

Your Brain as a Muscle

Mental fitness is the ability to maintain a positive state of mind, regulate emotions effectively, and think logically despite stressors or setbacks. This mindset helps you make positive changes against influences like stress, anxiety, and other mental wellness issues.

Contrary to popular belief, mental fitness is not about being happy all the time or avoiding complicated feelings; instead, it’s about developing resilience and learning how to cope with life’s challenges in a healthy way.

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Viewing Your Brain as a Muscle

At Healium, we believe it’s more important than ever to talk openly about the inner workings of our minds.

Mental fitness means more than the overall well-being of your mind. It also means following a commitment to view your mind like any other muscle in your body–as something that needs regular training and exercise to maintain.

The brain is the most extraordinary muscle in the human body, capable of affecting both mental and physical change. When practicing mental fitness, you train your brain just like you would train other muscle groups at the gym.

Mental training exercises and regiments like neurofeedback allow you to seize control of your mental fitness and work towards a healthier state of mind.

Mental Fitness vs Mental Health vs Mental Resilience
What’s the Difference Between:
Mental Health Accordion state arrow

Mental health is a higher level view than the other terms. It’s a broadly applied term that means the overall assessment of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being, often used interchangeably with “mental wellness”.

Mental Fitness Accordion state arrow

Mental fitness is a mental wellness regimen or mindset that treats your brain like the muscle it truly is, building its strength through mental practices like neurofeedback training, which can even be done from the comfort of your own home.

Mental Resilience Accordion state arrow

Mental resilience is similar to mental fitness, but it refers specifically to those times during which mental toughness is most important: those moments of extreme physical or mental stress, where adaptability is most called upon.

The Benefits of Being Mentally Fit – What Prioritizing Your Brain Gets You

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1. Increased Mindfulness of Thoughts, Emotions, and Actions

When faced with a challenging situation or an unwanted feeling, mental fitness enables us to step back and become more aware of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. This mindfulness allows us to ground in reality and recognize negative patterns, identify ways to cope effectively, and change our mental and behavioral responses.

Scientific studies have shown that increased mindfulness and a focus on the present contribute to increased left-sided brain activity, which is associated with positivity and a sense of well-being.

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2. A Fostered Sense of Self-Calm

Mental fitness is a remedy for internal negativity and anxiety. When we feel mentally fit, we can think logically and respond calmly instead of reacting negatively to a challenge. For example, our mental fitness VR meditation app has been proven to increase alpha brainwave power, which dramatically reduced our subjects’ reports of anxiety.

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3. A Boost in Resilience and Adaptability

When you are mentally fit, you remain motivated and focused on the future, even in the face of adversity. This resilience means that even if you don’t achieve your desired goal, you pick yourself up and try again.

The American Psychological Association lists mental fitness exercises like mindful yoga and meditation as a contributing factor for building resilience and overall adaptability.

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4. Increased Focus and Problem-Solving Skills

By disengaging from negative thought cycles, you free your mind up to identify creative solutions to complex challenges. Mentally fit people often identify untried possibilities they hadn’t considered before, which is one primary reason mental fitness enables us to see more options in life.

Mentally fit people often experience the ability to maintain focus and solve complex problems , ultimately enabling them to get more done in less time. In fact, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have shown that mental fitness and meditation enables us to stay focused and increase our learning concentration.

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5. Elevated Levels of Empathy

Understanding and sharing the feelings of another is a foundational aspect of what it means to be human. When we increase our levels of empathy, we promote social connections between one another, increase helpful behaviors, and feel more fulfilled overall.

EEG case studies like this one conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Tarrant have shown that mental fitness exercises like Healium induce feelings of empathy and compassion by activating and exercising the areas of the brain responsible for processing these complex emotional states.

Mental Fitness and the Mind-body Connection

Mental fitness practices such as meditation and mental imagery can not only create positive psychological benefits but physical ones as well! The mind and body are intrinsically linked, and even the Mayo Clinic provides evidence that improving your mental fitness through meditation will improve your physical health. 

Increased mental fitness has been known to:

– Reduce anxiety

– Alleviate depression

– Reduce chronic pain

– Reduce heart disease

– Lower blood pressure.

How Meditation Helps Mental Fitness

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One of the most effective methods of increasing your mental fitness is meditation.

Meditation helps people train their minds and lets them take a mental break, relaxing your mind and improving your mental state, as well as providing a mental detox. The long-term benefits of meditation is well documented. It has been used by many cultures for thousands of years to help cope with mental stress and mental illness as well as mental issues as a way to find mental peace.

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It is now becoming more popular among Western cultures as a way to keep your mental fitness in top shape.

Advances in modern technology have also resulted in advances in the effectiveness of meditation. With the advent of virtual (and augmented) reality, combined with the advancements made in the field of neurofeedback and brainwave studies, studies have shown that meditation methods that utilize these tools are more effective than audio-only versions of meditation.

How to Train Mental Fitness

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Exercising Your Brain with Neurofeedback & Virtual Reality

Just as with physical fitness, mental fitness can be improved through regimented training, especially with the right tools at your disposal.

Neurofeedback works by providing mental feedback to the user, letting them see their mental activity and mental performance in real-time. This helps people train themselves mentally (while also having fun). It allows you to see your mental progress easily while working towards an ultimate goal, which makes it an efficient method for improving mental fitness.

Overall, mental fitness can be increased through mental training, mental breaks, mental detoxes, mental relaxation, and meditation. These practices help you improve your mental health, keep your brain healthy, and keep it active to keep that mental edge strong.

Other Ways to Improve Mental Fitness: 5 Mental Fitness Exercises

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1. Consciously Focus on the Positives

Easier said than done, right?

Mentally fit people usually dwell less on negative thoughts, so they naturally find it easier to remain upbeat and engaged with daily life. But how do you get to that point?

The only answer is to set up a trigger in the back of your mind that fires whenever you encounter something negative. The next time you stub your toe or get cut off in traffic, do your best to recall that trigger. Take a deep breath and bring forth the positives of your situation.

Like any form of exercise, this becomes easier and easier over time.

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2. Concentrate on All Five Senses

Did you know that using all five of your senses actually helps strengthen your brain?

So often we find ourselves living behind our eyes, but limiting your awareness to just a few of your senses also ends up limiting your mindfulness and sense of the present. Instead, try a fun physical activity like hiking or even go to a new restaurant. Take time beforehand to consider the senses you typically rely on during these types of excursions, and make a conscious effort to focus on the other senses at the same time.

What does the woods smell like throughout your hike? Can you hear the food being cooked in the kitchen?

Repeatedly treating your senses as a form of mental fitness exercise will leave you feeling more mindful overall!

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3. Expand Your Vocabulary

Neuroimaging studies have shown that the areas of the brain most important for visual and auditory processing are also very active when learning new vocabulary. So break out the thesaurus, or (better yet) gamify this process entirely. Think: jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or Scrabble!

Or, if those aren’t hip enough for you, have you tried Wordle yet?

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4. Get More Sleep

The benefits of quality sleep have been well-documented. After all, it must be important if the average human spends one-third of their lives doing it!

Without quality sleep, the pathways in your brain that are responsible for forming new memories or learning new skills have trouble even being formed, meaning that if you’re a night owl that often finds yourself with circles under your eyes, you’re setting up a barrier to achieving mental fitness.

Luckily, certain mental fitness exercises can also contribute towards better quality sleep! At Healium, we have an entire category of virtual reality neurofeedback experiences specifically geared towards giving you top-quality zzzs.

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5. Eat a Healthy Diet

There are so many similarities between physical fitness and mental fitness, and this is one more overlap. A healthy diet is crucial to a properly operating brain, and cutting down on unhealthy foods (like sugar) has been found to improve memory and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

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How Do You Stay Mentally Active?

Oftentimes, simply asking this question means you’re already on the right track. Becoming aware of the fact that you need to exercise your brain is sometimes the hardest step to take.

To remain mentally active, you should consciously devote time and effort to exercises that stimulate your brain!

We’ve listed some great examples above, like meditating using neurofeedback, but others include: learning a new language or skill, doing math in your head, or devoting more time to socializing with others.

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