Mental Fitness

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

It may not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about health, but mental resilience and fitness is an important component of health and wellness that is one of the four pillars of New Brunswick’s Wellness Strategy.

Being mentally fit means being able to take control of one’s life and handle one’s emotions; it is the capacity to be able to reflect upon, plan, and carry through life choices. Mental fitness isn’t something that is innate; it is built up by the environment and the people we interact with.

An environment that fulfills the requirements for mental fitness is one that addresses autonomy (being independent), relatedness (”connecting” with others), and competence (being capable to achieve goals). Mental fitness is important not only in and of itself, but because it affects the likelihood that individuals will make healthy lifestyle choices and be responsible citizens.

Mental fitness is also linked with school spirit (a.k.a. school connectedness), pro-social behavior and attiudes, and diminished oppositional behavior.

There are many ways to increase mental resilience: making personal goals, enjoying hobbies, having a network of friends and family to relate with, managing stress, and being implicated in the community.

As a side note, many students that I know lament having to take personal formation courses during high school, which have a large mental fitness component. While I agree that mental fitness is usually oversimplified before being presented to teens thus rendering classes on the topic boring, I think that students shouldn’t let this diminish the importance of mental health.

For more information, visit the following sources:

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on October 16th, 2010.

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