Mental fitness is crucial. Without it, we cannot receive integral health and true flourishing of the body, mind, and spirit.
There are many reasons why we should practice and maintain mental fitness.
Research studies are not only interesting and educational, but they can help boost confidence in the end result. Research studies involving the mind/body/spirit are very beneficial to us and teach us how we can find that inner peace within.
Exercises, activities, and practices are necessary for improvement, no matter what. Just like physical fitness, mental fitness progresses through repetition and over time.
benefits of mental fitness
Leads us to health, happiness, and wholeness
“ Helps us evolve our psychospiritual life and access its capacities and resources without daily practice” (Dacher, 2006, p. 64).
Healthier attitudes and behaviors
uncovers the natural wisdom, inner peace, and loving-kindness
Our intention becomes “clear, focused, unbiased, and confident” (Dacher, 2006, p. 61).
the most famous prayer study
With the spiritual focus in mind, Randolph Byrd was determined to prove that prayer does work and can be measured.
With 393 patients in coronary care unit in San Francisco, he divided them up into one group receiving intercessory prayer and the other a controlled group.
This double blind study showed of the group receiving prayer to have better results on several counts.
“ Fewer deaths, less likely to require endotracheal intubation and ventilation support, fewer potent drugs, experienced lower incidence of pulmonary edema, and required cardiopulmonary resuscitation less often” (Schlitz, Amorok, & Micozzi, 2005, p. 317).
Although this study can be seen as not perfect (since other people could have prayed for the control group, etc.) it still proves that prayer does work and it can heal.
midlevel business managers
Dr. Peter Schnall took his curiosity into the real world and conducted a study of midlevel business managers who worked in a stressful environment.
Two groups were studied: those who suffered from the “job strain” and those who did not.
Those who suffered from the job also suffered from “helplessness, powerlessness, and associated mental stress,” while the others “saw it as a challenge and could summon the inner resources to deal with the workload” (Dacher, 2006, p. 18).
Those who had the healthy and developed inner life were able to complement the outer, worldly treatments.
neuropeptides to the rescue
Dr. Candace Pert not only made a fascinating discovery of natural body proteins called neuropeptides, but she also learned how they can be used to heal us mentally.
“… thoughts, feelings, and visual images can produce specific neuropeptides that alter our physiology to reflect a specific mental state” (Dacher, 2006, 17).
Basically, negative emotions can occupy our minds and can cause negative affects to our physical body. Therefore if we can turn those negative thoughts/emotions into positive, happy ones then we can avoid that negative outcome to our body. (maybe even a smile might show up)
Pert states it well, “The mind is the body, the body is the mind” (Dacher, 2006, p. 18).
practices to improve
There are several exercises, activities, and practices that are available to you in order to help improve your mental fitness.
Loving-kindness and subtle mind are two practices that are beneficial in many ways.
They both help prepare you to further your reach of psychospiritual development.
Each time you do these practices they bring greater skills and new insights. You feel as if you get something new out them each time you practice.
“ We feel grateful and blessed, awakening to the possibility that we can actually change the course of our health and life” (Dacher, 2006, p. 69).
Practice can turn our faith into confidence and then into certainty (Dacher, 2006).
Like any mental exercise, one must be comfortable, still, free from noise and distractions.
Start off with thinking of someone who you love, who is dear to you, and only focus on them. Bring these loving thoughts to your heart, and experience these feelings.
Now take these thoughts and feelings and turn them toward yourself. Feel these sensations, both positive and negative, if any. Be at peace with your body and these sensations.
Next give all your attention to the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that come and go through your mind. Give them all the tender love and care that you can give them.
After that turn to your deeper aspect of your mind-inner mind and focus on the stillness, peace, and gentleness.
Finally, use all of this love that you have built up within yourself and fully embrace it. Welcome it into your life.
Use the love within yourself towards others. Visualize a loved one who is suffering.
Breathe in that loved one’s sufferings. Allow it to flow into your heart and let it dissolve there.
The next breath you breathe out will pour out the health, happiness, and wholeness to that loved one.
Breathing in their sufferings, dissolving them, and breathing out happiness, love, and joy for your loved one.
Repeat the breathing in suffering and breathing out love and joy, but this time with a group of strangers.
After that, embrace all living things, yes that means even your enemies and do the same thing for them. Breathing in their suffering and giving them back happiness and love.
the subtle mind…
To start off this practice, begin with a simple practice related to the breath, which then becomes our focal point.
Remember, “Peaceful breathing pattern leads to a peaceful mind” (Dacher, 2006, p.75).
Choose either the inhalation or exhalation movement and focus on that specific one while doing 10 deep in and our breaths.
Ease your mind and body with this concentration of the focal point.
During this time, watch your mind. See to it that you notice the possible wondering thoughts, emotions, or images that might come up, and then notice them fade away from your focus.
Pause during this time of mental activity. Release your grip on your breath and focus on this concentration technique of witnessing your mental movements.
Learn how your mind works.
… the subtle mind
This can take a lot of practice, so do not feel beat when you find yourself frequently distracted. Notice them rise and then fall.
Again release your grip on your breath and you will notice your focus is easier to maintain with less force.
When your mind is fully stabilized you can give all your attention to the stillness of your mind and body rather than your breathing.
Explore your still mind.
This too will take some time to progress with each practice.
Eventually our calm-abiding mind evolves into unity consciousness and our deepest essence emerges.
This is where the mind drops into the heart.
“ This is the deepest nature and the natural healing resources of an open mind and an open heart” (Dacher, 2006, p. 77).
Mental fitness is necessary for integral health and human flourishing of the body, mind, and spirit. Benefits of mental fitness not only improves the mind but also the body and the spirit.
Doctors and researchers have been and still are learning about the human mind and all of its amazing capabilities. We are constantly learning how to better ourselves with mental focus and attention. We now can put these studies into our own personal use.
Mental fitness is like physical fitness and can be achieved through progressive exercises, activities, and practices. Loving-kindness and the subtle mind are just two examples of amazing practices that can “help us to tame and train the mind, open the heart, expand consciousness, and progress us toward psychospiritual flourishing” (Dacher, 2006, p. 66).
Dacher, E.S. (2006). Integral health: the path to human flourishing. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications.
Schlitz, M., Amorok, T., & Micozzi, M.S. (2005). Consciousness & healing: integral approach to mind-body medicine. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.