There is a direct correlation between physical fitness and diet of course. It is said that fitness is about 80% what you eat and 20% what you do in the gym. Fitness is also 100% mental, and if your mind is not healthy, your body won’t be either.
Your mind is the muscle that matters most in any fitness routine, and it is important to keep it healthy. It’s not as easy as just declaring that Tuesdays are “brain day” and doing some mental squats until you are exhausted. Keeping yourself mentally well is a lifestyle, and every day should be brain day. How do you keep yourself mentally well for better physical fitness?
Feed Your Body and Mind
Food matters just as much to mental fitness, and in some cases perhaps more. The same sugar addiction that can affect your body and your ability to lose weight and build muscle can really mess with your mind also. Those bouncing insulin levels not only mess with energy levels, but they can make it harder to focus, affect concentration, memory, and more.
Besides avoiding things that are bad for you like excessive nicotine and alcohol, it is important to put the right things in your body for optimal brain health. Veggies like spinach and kale, nuts (in moderation), beets, and other root veggies are good for your mind and body.
In addition, some things like caffeine and red wine can be good for you at reasonable levels. As long as you don’t use either to excess, they can improve brain function and even make you more alert. Caffeine in the right amounts can make up for some of your lost sleep, at least by keeping you alert and focused.
In short, food and nutrition matter to both mental and physical wellness.
Workout Your Body and Brain
Your body needs exercise. If you want to lose weight or build muscle on certain parts of your body, you need to do the right exercises too. Just going in to the gym and randomly lifting weights won’t really do much for you. You need to have a routine of some sort.
The same can be said for your brain: the right exercises workout different parts of the brain and make them stronger. Not working them out lets them atrophy and they become weak. You need to develop a mental exercise routine as well. Here are some ways to work out your brain.
- Reading is Fundamental: Yes, reading sparks your imagination, allows you to learn new things, and keeps your mind sharp and focused. Whether you read novels, books on fitness and diet, or the news for a fixed amount of time a day, absorbing information through reading is an important part of brain function.
- Writing Matters Too: Yes, you should write. From keeping a fitness journal and a personal journal to writing articles and perhaps even starting your own blog, those who write on a regular basis have stronger brains and higher IQ scores. Starting a blog is easy, with tons of services that help you pick a domain name and get started. There are also a lot of online journaling sites or apps for your phone that make writing anywhere, anytime, a breeze.
- So Does Arithmetic: Okay, so you don’t have to do math problems every day, or a daily dose of algebra, but logic puzzles like sudoku, games like chess, and other thought based computer and online games will help your mind stay nimble.
- Meditate: Sometimes your brain is just too active, and you need to give it a rest by emptying it. Meditation is a way to do this, and to help train your brain to focus on one thing at a time. Practiced regularly, this can help your mind tremendously, and there are apps for your phone and videos online that will help you get started and stay on track.
There is a flip side to this. A strong brain helps you build a strong body, but regular exercise is good for your brain too. It improves blood circulation, blood pressure, and the ability to focus. The brain affects the body, the body affects the brain, and both are affected by food.
The Habit of Habits
What is the habit of habits? This means you need to make a practice of making habits. Develop new patterns especially as you get rid of old ones. If you quit smoking, pick up another habit that will fill your time on your breaks and make it hard to go back to your old pattern.
At the same time, do things at work that keep you active. Stand, walk on break and lunch, exercise in your chair, and more. The more ingrained these habits become, the easier it will be to keep doing them, and it won’t take as much willpower and determination to do so.
Why habits? Because we are creatures who like patterns. We go to the same gas stations, take the same routes back and forth to work, shop in the same order at the same grocery store, and even watch the same shows at the same time each week. Whether we do it consciously or not, we are developing patterns and habits every single day.
For instance, if you always have dessert after each meal, it will be harder to quit sweets not only because sugar tastes good, but because it has become a habit, and something your body both expects and anticipates.
Good habits matter for one other key reason also.
The Origin of Willpower
Willpower comes from the front section of our brains, and we understand from science that it is a limited resource. Once it is gone, you need to refill your willpower tank. This is what helps you choose good over bad when it comes to making decisions.
The better habits you have, the less willpower you need to make those decisions, so you can save your willpower for things that really matter. With more willpower, you will make better decisions.
Mental wellness affects your physical fitness in a number of ways. Keep your brain healthy, and your body will follow.