You want to be strong AND gentle at the same time…
When we think of strength, we think of a big muscly human picking up heavy objects and moving them. Strength relates to many variables of oneself, including but not limited to physical aspects. In martial arts and self protection, we refer to this
non-physical strength as “spiritual fitness” where the victim of an attack can recover from a physical blow to counter attack or flee the threat area. This is a perfect example of a bridge between the physical world and the mental world we live in. Now how about the mental and spiritual aspects? even though there is a fine line between all of them – when we have weak mental “toughness” or “fitness” and then someone tell us we can’t do something, we accept it, we believe it and then it is manifested.
In life you’re going to have people tell you that you can’t do something – people like to limit others to their own limitations to make themselves feel better – although it is on you and YOU alone, to decide how that is going to effect you spiritually and mentally.
What are some great ways to increase your spiritual fitness or mental fitness? well… here are 10 of them.
Mediation has been used for literally 1000’s of years to increase positive aspects in both the physical and the spiritual world for ones self and others around them. You can find many scientific/spiritual documentations on meditation and it’s positive effects on the mind and body. Meditation is known for Increasing focus, energy and vitality, healthier sleep patterns and mental health etc with many more health benefits. You can find many documented cases of monks meditating in nothing but undergarments in the snowy Himalayas for hours and with reports of steam rising from their bodies by increasing their body temperatures with nothing but the power of their minds… if that’s is not mental fortitude then I don’t know what is.
2. Inward motivation.
Well… self motivation is quite obvious I know, although it is regularly overlooked – by changing your mindset, outlook on life, surroundings etc you will easily find yourself improving and it harder for the “nay sayers” to put you down. Most people struggle with “self” or “inward” motivation/drive, although if you learn to master this powerful asset you will soon find yourself in places you have never imagined doing things you never thought you could.
3. Outward motivation.
yep, there it is again… that word “motivation” it is used quite frequently here because to me I honestly think it is one of the most important aspects in ones life, those who lack motivation, lack on action, those who make no actions (in the correct directions) rarely achieve. Self motivation is quite hard for most people, one way that helped me for so long was definitely seeking outward motivation- I quite literally reset my way of thinking from 60 days of listening to motivational talks each morning for 20 minutes – now you can do this also, a good trick is for the first 20 minutes of your day, the first thing you should be exposed to is positive energy, this can come in forms of waking up 30 minutes earlier and going for a walk in nature, watching a motivational video on things like YouTube etc, reading a motivational book such as a the alchemist etc, eating a healthy vibrant breakfast while listening to upbeat music. I think you get the idea! I especially liked listening to speaker “Les Brown” talk about his past and upbringing because I could relate to his “underdog” status and his rise to fame and wealth.
4. Physical activity.
You guessed it! waking up early or going to the gym after work is one of my favourite things to do! You not only feel great in your mind after but the physical benefits are an added bonus. You don’t have to become a prop fitness model, but doing any physical activities will surely help you see brighter days ahead (and live longer too) if weights and big old pecs are not your cup of tea, try going for a run, swimming, bike riding, yoga, Thai Chi, boxing, rock climbing etc you get the idea just go have some fun! – side note, if you’re intimidated by the idea of it, try going to some classes, doing these activities with a friend or your partner is great for your confidence and your relationship. You could be there to lift them up with you because after all “strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up”
5. Healthier diet.
I am sure you saw that one coming – oh no the word “diet” well get over it, it’s just a word. You don’t have to cut out your favourite foods if you don’t want to, just try drinking less sugary drinks and eating less sugary food and replacing it with healthier natural options like more fruits and vegetables, drink more water (average is about 3-4L’s a day for most people) and leaner proteins/fats. You don’t have to stop eating what you love either, you can still eat that sneaky mars bar – yeah I’ve seen inside your car, I have seen those sneaky wrappers before haha – just try eating more of the good stuff and slowly meander away from the bad things.
6. Start a journal (or a medium of self expression)
Now I am a culprit on this one because I don’t actually have one a journal – although my partner does and she benefits a ton from writing her thoughts, goals, dreams, poetry and even the secret stuff she can’t express to others – but what I do have is my photography! Now I am a big believer in self expression, I express my emotions through my art – photography. I love capturing the world in a different light and showing people how I see things in everyday life. I also have this blog where I get to reach out and try and inspire others, now that is really important to me in life. Find something you love to do, hold onto it and ride that creative/self expressive wave.
7. Practice a martial art (or form of self protection)
I’ve met lot’s of people on my travels in life, some of the toughest I have met are those who practice a Martial Art or some form of self protection. The awareness you gain, to the flow of negative and positive energy in life, people, animals, nature and just about everything is very strong. Self discipline is something most people do not engage in, going to a space, learning how to move your body to protect yourself against negative physical forces is a great bridge to mental toughness. When I was 14 I was assaulted (aggravated assault and grievous bodily harm) on the street, in my own neighbourhood by someone 10 years older than I and I will tell you what, It completely changed the way I view the world around me. If it wasn’t for Martial Arts (mainly Aikido) I don’t think I would be the calm, strong spirited and reserved individual I am today. I now practice Krav Maga and I love it. You can read more about Martial Arts specifically in my last post – https://vvolfwood.com/2017/03/30/the-reason-why-you-should-take-a-martial-art/
8. Challenge yourself.
Challenging yourself (or other people – aka confrontation) is not something we often familiarise ourselves with in this day and age. Most people I meet don’t know how to say “no” or “yes” when it’s the right time. I try not to miss out on opportunities but with that attitude, you’re going to have to challenge yourself. The best way to deal with issues such as “the fear of failure” and “the fear of not being perfect” etc. is honestly going out and doing facing those fears – I know that sounds simple, but simple does not always mean easy – start off doing something small and work your way up to something bigger. In the words of my favourite Author and philosopher of all time Sun Tzu “Do hard things while they’re still easy, Do big things while they’re still small” what he is talking about here is hesitation, try not to to hesitate too much but also understand your limits and boundaries. If you wait too long, the small task may be too big, The easy task may be too hard, the small opportunities may now be impossible to require again but vice versa if you rush into to battle without knowing yourself or your opponent (in this case the challenge) you will lose every battle.
9. New friends.
Now I am sure some people will get offended by this and if you do, it’s probably because it is about you and guess what? the truth hurts. and guess what else? I don’t care. Sometimes you spend time with loser friends, this doesn’t mean they aren’t good people or even good friends – it just means they don’t want more from life and when you try to move forward or change, they’re often the first to put you down. You can do what I do now which is be a bad ass and tell them “Cya never” and don’t look back, but for most that’s difficult. Science shows when we spend an extended amount of time with a group of people or individuals we often take on their strongest characteristics, so if your friend jimmy is a lazy piece of shit and you spend too much time with him, you’ll most likely become a lazy piece of shit. Try and spend more time with people you look up to or are “better” than you – they will motivate you and pull you up to their level.
10. Go on retreat.
Though I am not an avid retreat attendee, my partner is and she finds it extremely beneficial. She enjoys many aspects of spiritual and meditative retreat, I honestly see those in her when she goes for a long period after. She enjoys being in a community and working together on many tasks with individuals of all walks of life but on her retreats you are to refrain from physical, verbal and spiritual contact with people in any form. Everything is done by body language and basic forms of communicating – she enjoys being able to connect with people without having to use or normal tactics like conversation, physical or building friendship in these “simple” ways. Now, I go on “retreat” but in a different methodology, I like to go alone and far away from people as possible, usually into the mountains and woodland to camp alone with no technology or human contact to meditate, do Tai Chi, practice martial form or just generally exist in the natural world alone and reset my mind/body. Both forms are intense, I do not recommend either for the faint of heart, as humans we struggle to be alone – I mean truly alone without stimulation… our brains are sponges and CONSTANTLY crave stimuli and so without this distraction, we generally break if not prepared or used to this way of life.
Invest in yourself (self education/development)
Most of the concepts on this post fall under this but just to summarise – anything you can do to better yourself and recreate yourself as a better person day by day is a positive thing, it will increase your spiritual fitness by all means. You can do physical, internal and spiritual improvements but ultimately all of them together will just improve you faster and faster. I suggest try one thing from this post at a time, most are not accustomed to change and find it off putting, try to shy away from the idea of thinking of what you will lose by having self discipline and think of what you will gain by starting this journey and new page in your life. I would like to say one final thing, if you do not wish to change you will not, if you do not want this bad enough to fight for it, then these things will not be possible.
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Stay strong, stay humble,
I took these photos while travelling solo in Switzerland, I kayaked and camped all over and it was one of the best times of my life so far. I spent a lot of time alone and although it was difficult I learned more about myself than before. Thanks to some very special at that time (she knows who she was and I try not to share names here) I managed to pull through in those darkest moments with their support – so when seeking a better life, do not forget to seek support when it becomes to much. We are all in this together after all.