What About The Mental?

Do you train your mind?

Many resources exist on how to train the physical body. It is a well-researched topic and it’s easy to observe changes – we look different in the mirror, can run further or lift more weight. This feedback is a nice way to confirm we’re doing something right.

Also planning a training program is easy. Run this amount of kilometres, lift this amount of weight and progress over time.

But do you train your mind?

Why don’t we put the same effort into developing a strong mind?

Because it’s not tangible, it’s difficult to quantify, less information exists on how to do it and there is stigma attached to ‘mind training’ –  a feeling that it should be left to Buddhist monks and Jedi’s.

Why is it important?

We rely on our bodies for many tasks and often they fall within our physical capabilities, like doing the groceries. Seldom do we do things that truly challenge our body. We’re capable of performing most activities with next to no effort. Imagine if we could get to the same level of mental ease.

We call on our brain for every task we do. Improving mental efficiency improves effectiveness – from ensuring the supermarket receipt is correct to negotiating challenging social situations.

Muscles are trained by lifting weights – with correct application and time, heavy dumbbells become light. The same principle applies to mental training and difficult mental calculations soon become easy.

How do we train the mind?

Just as the body is trained in different ways, such as strength versus endurance, there several approaches to training the brain…

Practice mindfulness

Be ‘present’.

The mind is in a constant state of flux flickering between past, present and future. By remaining grounded in the present, we do better at the job at hand and reduce unnecessary worry about the future or dwelling on the past.

Practice mindfulness with mundane tasks. Chores around the house, like sweeping, for instance. Focus intently on doing the task perfectly.

Continual learning

Without constant stimulation, the brain stagnates and atrophies just as muscles waste when not used.

Lifelong learning keeps the brain fresh. Learn about topics that interest you – read, research and sign up for courses. Take advantage of free online learning platforms like Coursera and edX.

Meditate

Meditation benefits everyone not just Yogis and progressive types who say “Yeah man,” too often.

It’s another opportunity to practice mindfulness. When beginning meditation, the mind rarely stays in one place and instead jumps from thought to thought. Learn how to meditate using techniques like focusing on the breath. These apps are useful too.

With practice you’ll be able to separate yourself from your thoughts, allowing them to float by like clouds instead of becoming attached to them. Your concentration will improve.

Mental rehearsal and visualisation are also great tools. Elite athletes, foreseeing their future success, have popularised these techniques. Create vivid mental imagery of an area of your life you’d like to improve and see yourself succeeding.

Do you put time and effort into mental training? What techniques and strategies do you use? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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