We’re 2 weeks into the new decade. How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?
From what I see at the gym in the morning and around my neighborhood, a lot of people are doing a good job sticking with it. As I do every year, I’m seeing new faces at the gym, and new people walking and jogging around the neighborhood. While most will dwindle away, some will stick with it. The new routines will become habit, which is when they will start to notice changes in their body.
When people set resolutions for the year, they are always around diet and fitness. People want to eat better and work out to improve their health and lose weight, which are both great goals. Why don’t people place the same attention on their mental health as their physical health?
I might attribute it to our media influenced culture that obsesses over looks. Or it could be that physical results are easier to see and measure than improvements in our mental health. In any case, what I’ve found over the last few years is that our mental health is every bit as important, if not more so than our physical health. Our mindset and mental outlook have a tremendous influence on our physical health, not to mention our state of mind. The mental and physical go hand and hand. So what is a person to do?
A person doesn’t get healthy by eating right for a day or two. You don’t lose weight by working out for a week or two. To make meaningful and lasting changes, eating right and working out need to become habits.
The same is true for our mental health. You can’t expect to read one book and experience lasting change. Keeping a journal for a few days doesn’t suddenly make you more mindful. Practicing meditation for a week or two won’t change your outlook on life. Just like your physical health, your mental health is something you need to attend to every day.
In Ego Is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday explains it perfectly in this excerpt:
My friend the philosopher and martial artist Daniele Bolelli once gave me a helpful metaphor. He explained that training was like sweeping the floor. Just because we’ve done it once, doesn’t mean the floor is clean forever. Every day the dust comes back. Every day we must sweep.
We eat well regularly to maintain our health, or work out to maintain our weight and physique. Athletes train daily to maintain their competitive edge. Musicians practice daily to perfect their skills. Likewise, we need to regularly read, meditate, journal, and practice mindful activities to improve and maintain our mental health.
So if you don’t have any resolutions related to improving and maintaining your mindset, I encourage you to take the time to add them. You don’t need to wait until next January 1st to start. You can start tomorrow. You can start next week. Start the beginning of next month. Pick up a book like The Daily Stoic that will give you a reading you can do every day. If you’re more spiritually minded, start reading a devotional such as Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling or Dr. David Jeremiah’s In Moments Like These. Pick up a book with daily journal prompts to help you develop awareness. Use apps like Headspace or Calm. They provide guided meditations that will help you learn and understand the practice so you get the most out of it. Bottom line, the resources are there – use them!
Sweeping the floor.
I love that metaphor. It speaks so well to both our physical and mental health. Just because you do it once doesn’t mean your done. The dust and dirt return. If not dealt with, it quickly accumulates and becomes unmanageable. Eventually, it leads to damage.
Don’t let it happen. Make sweeping the floor a daily habit. Start now.