There is no doubting that people have become more aware of mental health over the past few years and whilst raising awareness will always be necessary, lifesaving and hugely important, we also need to start taking action to protect our mental health and implementing preventative measures. Performance Coach and positive psychologist Tabby Kerwin looks at how we can start developing a wellbeing toolkit in order to improve our emotional fitness.
When we feel a little sluggish, unfit or maybe a few pounds heavier than our body feels comfortable with, we do something about it. We join a gym, go for a walk or hook oursleves up with a couch to 5k app. We do what is necessary to improve our physical fitness.
So why then, when our minds are feeling a little sluggish, unfit and a little heavier than we feel comfortable with do we not engage in some kind of activities to boost our emotional fitness? We need a mind gym as much as we do a body gym.
When we consider physical health we think of all the positive things we can do to improve it, like exercise, yet when we think of mental health we still jump to those negative mind traps. We need to change this narrative and we can do that by focussing on our emotional fitness and boosting it.
I use the term emotional fitness to describe our level of wellbeing and mental health. Mental health and mental illness are two different things and we can be mentally healthy even if we have a diagnosis of a mental illness. But, in order to be healthy we need to get fit; emotionally fit. Being emotionally fit means focussing on the things that are good for our wellbeing.
Fitness, be that emotional or physical, shouldn’t just be something that we engage in once we start feeling unfit though. It should be something we implement into our daily lives as a protective measure and intervention for our health. The fitter we keep ourselves, the healthier we will likely be, so that means prioritising our emotional and physical fitness and there are countless things that we can do to support both at the same time.
Physical and mental health are closely intertwined. In fact, when we engage in physical exercise it boosts our mood and when we engage in emotional fitness exercises it elevates our confidence and desire to become physically fit. Prevention is key here. Implementing simple, easy emotional fitness exercises we can engage in on a daily basis and that become part of a wider wellbeing toolkit that we can utilise whenever we need it.
Three emotional fitness exercises to start developing your wellbeing toolkit:
1. Box Breathing
Box breathing is great to bring a sense of calm and clarity, reduce the heartrate and control the stress hormone, Cortisol. Breathe in through your nose for 4 beats, hold for 4 beats, breathe out through your nose for 4 beats, and hold the outbreath for 4 beats. Repeat 4 times.
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly associated with greater levels of happiness helping people feel more positive emotions, improve health, become more resilient and have better relationships. Each night, write down three things you have been grateful for during the day and absorb the feeling of gratitude and positivity.
3. Emotional Check-in
Several times a day take a moment to check in with yourself. Ask yourself how you are feeling and ascertain whether your behaviour matches the emotion you are feeling. Be the awareness behind your emotions and not just the emotion itself. In other words, if you’re angry, be aware that you are not that emotion. You feel anger and you can feel that physically your heart rate is increased and your muscles are tense. Just because you feel anger does not mean you have to be angry. The more we become aware of our emotions, the more we start to respond appropriately rather than reacting to emotions and situations.
To buy Tabby’s Book:
‘The Three Ps: Possibility, Productivity & Performance’ visit: https://amzn.to/3essvBO