Did you set a New Year’s resolution for 2021? If it’s to get fit, remember: Your mental health is just as important, if not more so than your physical health.
After a hectic, challenging 2020, both your mind and body could probably use a tune-up. And just like your muscles, your mind gets stronger when it meets resistance. Challenging yourself is key to both categories of fitness.
How can you stay on top of your mental and physical health? With these simple steps to balance the two:
Set Clear Goals
Mentally and physically, goals are how you get better. Your goals should be specific and attainable, with a time constraint to push you forward even on days you don’t want to.
An example of a mental fitness goal is to read one book a month. The goal is clear, attainable, and has a deadline to meet. Reading has a number of benefits, such as reducing stress and helping you wind down for the night. Even though it’s enjoyable, it’s a great brain workout.
Your physical fitness goals should follow the same pattern. If your goal is to run a marathon, plan to do so months in advance. To get stronger every day, set stepping-stone goals until your feet are ready to handle 26.2 miles at once.
Repeating the same mental and physical exercises every day will result in a rut. More important than putting in the time is staying engaged. If you give up, you’ll lose everything you’ve gained.
Never be afraid to try something new. If bicycling gets boring, try stand-up paddle boarding. If running loses its luster, what about step aerobics?
Not only will experimenting with your activities help you build neglected muscles, but it’s a great brain workout. Moving your body in new ways improves your mental fitness by boosting your confidence and coordination.
Focus on Areas of Overlap
You can kill two birds with one stone with a number of different activities. Certain lifestyle habits can benefit your mental and physical health at the same time. Here are a few examples:
Get Enough Sleep
Your body needs a good night’s rest to re-energize every day. Lack of sleep saps your energy and strength, making it difficult to reach your physical peak. Getting too little sleep can also make your mind feel foggy and raise your risk for mental health issues.
With that said, take care not to get too much sleep. You’ll wake up feeling groggy and dazed and have a difficult time getting back into a good sleeping pattern again. Seven or eight hours per night is just right.
Drinking plenty of water keeps your mind clear and your body functioning at its best. Hydration promotes blood flow and cell regeneration, including in the brain. The better you feel physical, the easier it is to maintain your mental health.
Other liquids are fine in smaller doses but cannot substitute for water. Sugary, caffeinated, and alcoholic drinks do little to hydrate you. Worse, they may cause you to crash later in the day.
Just as important as getting enough liquids in your body is eating the right foods. A balanced diet keeps your energy levels high enough to hit the gym and the books on the same day.
If you struggle with healthy eating, try meal planning. Taking one day to lay out all of your meals for the week saves time and makes it easier to check your nutritional boxes.
Avoid Drugs and Alcohol
No good, mentally or physically, comes from consuming drugs and alcohol. Not only do they cloud your thinking, but when used regularly, they make it more difficult to manage your stress.
Drugs and alcohol also get in the way of your physical health. Aside from raising your risk for disease, they put you at risk for injury. Never exercise or do other dangerous activities while under the influence.
Get a Coach
Seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, finding the right coach can help you take your mental and physical strength to the next level.
A professional counselor can help you overcome mental blocks and find the confidence to exercise. A personal trainer can make sure every workout is a great one. A life coach dabbles in both domains to help you achieve holistic growth. Listen to their advice if you want to become your best self this year.
You’ll be amazed at just how much life gets easier when you find the right balance of mental and physical fitness. When your head and body are healthy, the other areas of life — your social, emotional, and spiritual lives — tend to fall into place. The best part is, you have a whole new year ahead to find your sweet spot.