By Walter E. Jacobson, MD
Dr. Jacobson Answers a Reader’s Email Question:
“What are the best ways to stay mentally fit?”
There are, certainly, a great many ways to stay mentally fit. Many of the points I made about reducing stress (in my article, “Is Stress Hazardous To Your Health?”) apply to this concept of staying mentally fit as well. Such as: exercise, diet, meditation, yoga, talk therapy, spiritual counseling, among other things.
Nonetheless, true mental fitness requires a capacity for open-mindedness. The ability and willingness to question your beliefs, your biases, your prejudices.
Look at your anger, your rage, your depression, your fears and anxieties. Uncover their triggers and find different ways to look at the stuff in your life. Make wiser and more considerate decisions.
Release selfishness and self-entitlement. Despite how difficult, awful and painful your life might be and how horrible you might feel, it is, nonetheless, necessary to be considerate of other people’s feelings and needs as well, and to not emotionally bleed all over them or abuse them in other ways. Especially your professed loved ones.
Let go of defensiveness and ego defense mechanisms such as denial, rationalization, and projection, among others, which only serve to distort reality and keep true mental fitness at arm’s length.
All that being said, the question remains, “What are the BEST ways to stay mentally fit?”
I spent a fair amount of time with this question, trying to distill mental wellness down to a few common denominators. I decided upon three: Truth. Compassion. Calm.
Apply these three ideals in your life. Practice them on a moment to moment basis as best as you possibly can with everyone, with everything animate and inanimate, with every situation you encounter. Extend truth, compassion and calm. BE truth, compassion and calm.
Tell the truth. Don’t omit. Don’t distort. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Be grateful for the blessings in your life. Share the blessings in your life. Be generous in all ways possible.
Choose not to be impulsive, reckless and over-reactive. Disengage from chaos and melodrama, from judgment and attack. Engage the power of acceptance and one-ness.
As we role model truth, compassion, and calm in all the transactions in our minds and in our lives, we will approach mental wellness and eventual global wellness as well.
Walter E. Jacobson, MD is a Board Certified Psychiatrist who has been in private practice in the Los Angeles area since 1999. Dr. Jacobson specializes in insight oriented psychotherapy, cognitive therapy, marriage counseling, medication management and spiritual psychotherapy. He was Editor of the The Southern California Psychiatrist, the monthly newsletter of the Southern California Psychiatric Society for two years and has written dozens of articles about psychiatry and mental health. Dr. Jacobson currently teaches The Art of Forgiveness as part of the Northridge Hospital Integrative Medicine program, and he is also Chairman of the Northridge Hospital Physician Well-Being Committee. Dr. Jacobson is a member of the National Association of Medical Communicators.