SINGER and actress Selena Gomez has long been open about her mental health, and now she wants everyone to reap the benefits of working on their “mental fitness”.
The 29-year-old has launched a mental health platform called Wondermind (wondermind.com), and told InStyle: “We believe that exercising your brain and mental health is just as important as exercising your body.”
Mental fitness is all about small, daily things you can do to boost your psychological and emotional wellbeing.
Gomez says she keeps her mental health ticking over by “reaching out to friends or family to talk through my feelings, and I also recommend working out - I’ve been doing a lot of high-intensity workout classes, like boxing, which allows me to release my energy!”
In 2020, Gomez revealed she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and often gives glimpses into how she takes care of herself - including going to therapy and steering clear of social media.
Wondermind doesn’t claim to be a replacement for therapy, but says: “You work out your body, but what about your mind? To us, mental fitness means creating a routine; working through your feelings to better understand your mind - with the right tools and community to support growth. It means committing to a daily practice, even when you feel out of your comfort zone (which shows it’s working!)”
If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s worth talking to your GP, calling Samaritans on 116 123, or going on Mind’s website (mind.org.uk) for emergency advice or crisis resources.
But if you’re looking to work on your mental fitness and make some small, practical changes every day to help boost your overall wellbeing, there are some things you can try...
“Find ways to embrace gratitude every day,” says Simon Alexander Ong, author of Energize (order now at getenergizebook.com).
“Write a letter to somebody telling them why you are grateful to them, send a voice note to someone to say thank you for their support, or bring a colleague aside to express thanks for their hard work. This way of living is guaranteed to elevate your mental energy and mood.”
Dr Deborah Lee of Dr Fox Online Pharmacy (doctorfox.co.uk) suggests practising kindness every day could help boost your own mental health.
“Being kind to others will increase your sense of worth and self-esteem, all of which lead to happiness and greater pleasure in life,” she says.
“You could sign up to be a volunteer or drop in on an elderly neighbour. You might decide to walk a dog for a friend, start babysitting, or even become a blood donor, for example.”
“Just as you might lift weights in the gym, you can build mental fitness with tools like meditation,” says Anne-Sophie Fluri, neuroscientist at mindfulness app MindLabs (wearemindlabs.com).
“By bringing your attention to the present moment and helping you observe your thoughts and feelings without letting them consume you, mindfulness is a great tool for building mental fitness.
“Meditation helps to facilitate real changes in the brain, helping you feel less anxious, improve your mood and concentration and become more self-aware.”
If you’re new to meditation, try apps like MindLabs or Headspace to get you started.
Schedule in rest periods
We all have hectic lives and it’s easy to get caught up with everything that’s going on - only to realise you’re burnt out when it’s too late.
Ong recommends scheduling in time to rest every day, because this is “the space where our creativity blossoms, our wisdom rises to the surface and insights are born”.
He advises treating these rest periods like you would meetings or social events, saying: “Making this part of your routine will help you stay mentally fit, and come back to whatever you were doing recharged, rejuvenated and ready for whatever the world may throw your way.”
Write down your feelings
“You can’t have self-development without self-awareness, because you simply can’t change what you are not aware of,” says Ong. “It is why true wisdom begins with understanding yourself.” He recommends regular journaling, calling it “the cheapest form of therapy there is”.
Ong continues: “By understanding your thinking, you not only know yourself better, but you feel a greater sense of clarity and [can] channel your energy into what you can control over what you can’t. It helps to deepen the relationship you have with yourself.”
Fluri says journaling can help with emotional regulation, adding: “Learning to deal with your emotions is an important part of mental fitness. Key to this is self-soothing: finding constructive ways to tolerate distress and comfort ourselves.”
Take a cold shower in the morning
It might not sound like the most appealing way to start your day, but there’s a growing movement advocating for the mental health benefits of cold water therapy.
Be careful with this if you have any existing health conditions, but Lee suggests a cold shower can “elevate levels of endorphins, the natural chemicals released in the brain that give you a ‘high’”.
Lee adds: “Cold water immersion also lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Interestingly, the biggest benefit from the cold shower is in the first minute or two - there is no real additional benefit from gritting your teeth and forcing yourself to stay under the cold water for too long!”
Practise good self-care
Fluri says: “A resilient brain is one that is well-nourished, well-rested and well-cared for. Practising good self-care is essential for showing up as your best self and guarding against stress and burnout.”
Find out what works best for you - whether that’s having a bath, going for a walk out in nature or listening to some music - anything that gives you an opportunity to focus on nourishing yourself.