What does it mean to be mentally fit? We hear these words often, but what are the criteria for mental fitness and how many of us meet these qualifications?

Each of us strives for at least a level of mental wellness that enables us to cope with everyday stresses in life. Mental wellness makes it possible for us to be productive, contribute to our home and society and navigate the many obstacles that life will throw our way.

When you are mentally fit, you possess the mental skills to manage the challenges that land in your lap.

Think about what it means to be physically fit. People who are physically fit typically have a fitness regimen that enables them to easily handle activities that might command a bit of muscle or cardiovascular strength.

A person who is not physically fit is not able to handle such endeavors. For example, if you ask people who regularly run ten miles a week to run one mile tomorrow, it is highly likely that they can do this with no problem. Their muscles are pre-conditioned for the run.

Their heart can withstand the extra work. They have the proper attire and running shoes to complete the mission. They can accomplish it without giving it much thought.

Someone who is physically unfit more than likely does not even possess the proper attire for the run.

He can probably barely jog a quarter of a mile—let alone a full mile—without collapsing. Because he doesn’t regularly run, there is some possibility that he might even injure some part of his body upon attempting the task.

The same is true for mental fitness. Mental fitness does not just mean that you are not actively experiencing some form of mental illness, such as being bipolar, schizophrenic or depressed.

Being mentally and emotionally fit requires the ability to address issues and emotions head-on. It requires the ability to adapt to various situations and circumstances. It also requires taking those skills and applying them to future problems.

How to Be Mentally Fit

There are many actions you can take to enhance your mental fitness.

Practice Self-Care

Mental fitness starts with taking care of yourself. You must learn to express what it is you are feeling. You must learn to be open about both good and bad feelings—but not in a way that is self-destructive or damaging to others.

Self-care should include the practice of being mindful, or aware of the present. This practice allows you to identify what is important, what has immediate impact on you, what requires a response, and what is irrelevant and not worth your time.

Learn to Manage Your Stress

You hear this a lot, but you must learn to manage your stress. This pesky emotion can destroy your physical and mental fitness. It can also lead you to make poor decisions that contribute to negative outcomes in life.

Therefore, you must learn to develop effective coping strategies that enable you to reign in the emotions that often accompany stress and that can harm your mental wellness. You must never be afraid to get help if your stress is out of control.

Identify the Positive Aspects

Another facet of being mentally fit is having the ability to see the glass as being half full.

Mentally fit people can recalibrate their thinking even in the midst of the most challenging situations. They can function optimally without being delusional in their thought processes.

Hobbies and Learning New Things

The literature suggests that to stay mentally fit, you must help your brain create new patterns.

This is similar to the way physical exercise helps us to build new muscles. Learning a new language, practicing hobbies, or learning a new skill can all help to put you on the path to doing just that.

There you have it! Being mentally fit is not a given and does not just happen by chance. You must put in the work to sustain your mental fitness, in much the same way as you have to put in the work to have a physically fit body.

Some people can achieve mental fitness on their own—but do not be afraid to ask for help if you find that you are struggling to sustain this state of being.