First, why not? We live in a culture where people are constantly talking about health and fitness: what gyms they go to, their fitness routine, and, everyone, is always talking about some kind of diet. Yet there is a resistance to talking about your mental health as if it is not as important. Well, it is because there is no physical health without mental health. Look at it this way. Your fitness, shape, and how you look depend on your exercising and eating well, yes? Ok. Furthermore, exercise will work more or less according to how often, and how hard you work out, still with me? Also, to make the exercise worthwhile it has to be accompanied by the right kind of eating, there is a very true fitness motto that says that “abs live in the kitchen”. Yes? All right, here’s the connection.
Scientific evidence shows that motivation, any motivation, especially the motivation to exercise is determined by how healthy your brain is functioning: the fitter the brain process, the easier it is to be motivated to strive to feel good and look good. People with a positive mental attitude about themselves are more likely to feel energized to exercise and eat well. But, how do people get to feel positive about themselves? Well, it depends on their Mental Health. People with good Mental Health, I call it Mental Fitness, have a more positive image of themselves, which in turn motivates them to seek an even better image. So, they feel motivated to exercise, eat well, and generally take care of themselves better, which leads to feeling better, looking better, and being more fit. Without this Mental Fitness—being mentally fit—you can’t be completely physically fit. We have seen many examples of the fittest athletes failing to perform because they lacked the mental fitness required. The recent case of the gymnast Simone Biles is a perfect example: she is considered the most fit gymnast in history, yet all her physical ability was nullified by her lack of mental fitness during the Olympics. Also, it’s not unusual for the best athletes in the world to refer to the importance of “the mind in the game”, and being “mentally tough”.
Yet, few people talk about it in the same way that they talk about their diet and their exercise programs. Even when it’s as important, if not even more important. Why?
Well, first, there is a huge misunderstanding about mental health. The term itself is associated with mental illness, which is something that most people try to distance themselves from—which is why in my center, my practice, and my life, I use the term Mental Fitness. I come from a long tradition in psychology where we always believed that “psychotherapy is too good to be limited to the sick”. We always have known that psychotherapy is like working out. It strengthens the mind, it creates mental toughness to face the challenges of life, and makes a person resilient—able to bounce back from injuries and defeats—with courage and strength; doesn’t this sound like the very things that good exercise give our physical bodies?
Perhaps it is time to start talking about this mental fitness, and as psychotherapy as a means to achieve it with the same passion and enthusiasm that we talk about our gym routines, yoga, meditation, and nutrition. Share our enthusiasm about it with others, and share with them our routines, process, good trainers (therapists), and workout spots (centers). Then, many people that today are suffering quietly will look at mental health—Mental Fitness—in a different way, and just as millions get motivated to seek better and more fit physical lives, many will also seek fit minds and spirits. That is why it is important to speak about mental health today.