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Mental Fitness Training - Living with Kryptonite Pt2

Burying your head in the sand:

Surprisingly, quite a few of us in the community agreed that since limiting the intake of news, in some cases almost shutting the news off completely, the result has been a surprisingly uplifting effect on our collective mental health. Instead of viewing limited exposure to news as burying your head in the sand, the collective viewpoint was this: If we take a step back and reflect on the intentions behind the news shows, we find that most of it is aimed at sensationalising what is happening in the world. And unfortunately to do this, the news typically targets the negative stuff happening, not the positive.

When you consider the impact of news shows from this vantage point, it behoves us to limit our intake--especially, if we would like to build our mental fitness and progress from just surviving to thriving despite the uncertainty. Further, suggestions were shared on how to consume news while protecting your mindset. When watching the news, try to take it with a pinch of salt. You can think of it like applying your own filter to what gets let into your conscious space. For example, this can be done by questioning what angle the story is trying to promote.

The group agreed that, similar to news shows, switching off social media has an uplifting effect on our mental fitness. Interestingly, unlike news shows, social media is filled with articles and videos of people portraying an image of how positive they are and how good things are going for them. A podcast I recently listened to compared social media to an image of people’s front room--because this space is usually used for entertaining guests, it’s typically shiny and glitzy. As a guest, however, you don’t get a peak at the other rooms that are behind closed doors. Basically, what is presented on social media is often not real. And so, we all agreed it’s not healthy to try and be positive all the time. It’s just too draining.

Acceptance over positivity:

The discussion moved to the notion of acceptance, and why it is so vital if you want to thrive in the new now. Some days you feel like crap; you have negative thoughts. But this will pass and the sun will still shine again. It’s a better use of energy to accept the grumpy thoughts and grumpy days, whilst still moving forward with what you need to do. Eventually when things balance out, the good thoughts and good days will resume. All we have to do is enjoy them. One of the community members pointed out that acceptance doesn’t just magically happen one morning when you wake up. In their case, they had spent the last 6 months doing a lot of soul searching and reflecting. Having been given this amount of time to spend on this internal pursuit enabled them to reach acceptance, especially in respect of their definition of failure. The lesson here is: you have to put in the work to build your mental fitness.

The discussion on acceptance reminded me of a video chat I had with a friend. It was about a study done on Vietnam war prisoners, which found that the ones who survived were realists, who accepted they were in a shitty situation. Let's face it, a prison camp during wartime is not a place you would ever choose to end up. After making the mental shift to accept this fact, the realist’s mindset shifts focus to dealing with each day, one day at a time. The prisoners who didn't survive were apparently over-optimistic. They kept telling themselves: We are going to get saved tomorrow; this will all end soon. Unfortunately, when this didn’t happen, the energy spent staying so upbeat and optimistic soon wore them out, making it difficult to find the energy to carry on.

(continued on next blog post)

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