Just like physical fitness, we all have mental fitness…
And, just like different people have different levels of physical health, different people can also have different levels of mental health.
There’s no denying that my physical fitness is worse than The Rock’s or Serena Williams’ (only slightly) and, similarly, there’s no denying that my mental fitness is worse than Tony Robbins’.
Perhaps more importantly, just like my physical fitness takes a lil drop when I’m stuffing my face with Christmas food & booze, my mental fitness can also sink when I’m going through periods of ‘stress’, loneliness or daunting life changes like getting a new job (or stuffing my face with Christmas food & booze).
We still don’t really know what causes bad mental fitness.
We tend to say it’s genetic — bad mental health often runs in families, which suggests that people might inherit genes that make them vulnerable. But just because people may inherit a vulnerability to depression or anxiety, doesn’t mean they inherit the depression or anxiety directly. Many people can inherit a vulnerability, but tons of people may never suffer from debilitating depression or anxiety themselves.
Other people say the cause of bad mental health is due to having low levels of hormones such as serotonin (that good ole’ ‘happy chemical’), but this has been largely ruled out as bullsh1t. We don’t really even know if low serotonin causes low mood or if low mood causes low serotonin (ah, we meet again crafty ‘what came first the chicken or the egg’ debate). It’s no longer good enough to just ‘say sorry lad/lady your body is broken so here, have some chemicals and you’ll be all good’.
For me, the realisation that bad mental fitness wasn’t a permanent and unchangeable part of me that I’d have to let cripple me was life changing.
Now, whenever I feel anxious or depressed, I no longer concede defeat and cause myself further pain by thinking there is nothing I can do about the way I think or feel.
In the past, this sense of hopelessness would pull me deeper into depression or anxiety, causing panic that there was something fundamentally broken within me.
More recently, I have adopted the belief that there are psychological reasons that are causing me to feel distress (such as the Thinking-Feeling Connection that I will go into more detail on in my next post) and I realise it doesn’t even matter what the causes of my bad mental fitness are.
What’s more important is the fact I can manage my thoughts, feelings and behaviour when I feel distressed.
I am starting a series that outlines some of the experiences I’ve had with bad mental health and the tools I have used to improve it.
I hope that you can take some of the tools and use them to help you through mental health hardship, or adopt these strategies into your life to prevent you from feeling mental health hardship in the future.