By Holly McCorriston
Pivoting from full-time community pharmacist in my hometown of Kindersley to full-time online life coach and mental fitness trainer has been an interesting journey! The number one question I get asked since I started work as an entrepreneur is, “Wait? What’s a mental fitness trainer?”
I love this. I love that the title itself sparks interest and curiosity in the other person.
Mental fitness, simply put, is a way of measuring how quickly you can shift from negative to positive responses to challenges.
How long does it currently take you to shift from a super stressed ball of nerves to a calm, cool, collected human capable of taking laser-focused action? Try not to judge yourself here and reflect on this with discernment and curiosity instead.
If it takes you a few days (or weeks) to recover from a fight with your partner or a fiasco at work, it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you… it might just mean you just have weak mental muscles that no one ever told you existed?
“Mental muscles” are an oversimplified way of describing what needs strengthening in your brain and nervous system. This analogy tends to resonate with most people that have a body with muscles. Most of us know we feel better and move better when our bodies are physically strong and healthy, so why wouldn’t we feel better and interact better in the world with stronger & healthier mental and emotional muscles?
If you are curious about your current mental fitness level, you can take what is called your PQ Score (short for Positive Intelligence Quotient) for free at www.positiveintelligence.com/pq-score
Keep in mind this score is not definitive and describes how you have been feeling over the last 24 hours, so if you have been enjoying the most glorious vacation for the last week and are feeling blissful and relaxed, your PQ score may be higher than when you are at home in the middle of a busy and chaotic workweek. The best way to use this score is objectively and with curiosity and to take it a few times to get an average for yourself.
From the Positive Intelligence website:
“PQ (Positive Intelligence Quotient) measures the relative strength of your positive mental muscles (Sage) versus the negative (Saboteur).
PQ is the most widely used measure of mental fitness. Independent researchers have validated this measure to be the greatest predictor of how happy you are, and how well you perform against your potential.”
The first time I took my PQ Score, it was 54. This was AFTER 15 months of working with a coach, starting a meditation practice, journaling every day for three months and having completed an accredited life coaching diploma. This meant I was still responding negatively about 50% of the time, even after doing a significant amount of personal growth and development.
Some clients that have worked with me in my Be Your Own Hero programs came to me with PQ scores as low as 9 and 15. This does not mean they were broken. Knowing where they were starting meant they had somewhere to go. Personal responsibility and radical acceptance for where we are is a huge part of any healing journey.
You will not take your car to the mechanic to get looked at until you notice the engine light is on or it is making a funny sound. You will not work on strengthening your mental muscles until you realize they are weak and creating a negative impact in your life and relationships.
Keep in mind that there is no one on the planet that has a PQ Score of 100. It is not possible to be happy and joyous 100% of the time and even those with the strongest mental muscles in the world need to remain diligent on their mental fitness journeys.
Much like physical fitness, you can go to the gym and get in the best shape of your life… but what happens when you quit going?
The CEO and founder of Positive Intelligence, Shirzad Chamine, describes mental fitness as a continuum, much like earning belts in Karate. Everyone starts out earning a Yellow belt and gradually progresses toward a Black belt. Yet even the master trainers in black belt need to continue their practice and are susceptible to injuries, sneak attacks, and the unexpected.
So why does this mental fitness stuff matter? Because it prepares us to be able to respond in the ways we want to versus the ways we react by default. No one wants to be sideswiped by a physical illness or injury, much like no one wants to be taken down by a job loss, death in the family, or a house fire.
We eat nutritious food and look after our bodies so we are less likely to suffer from physical illness. We strengthen our mental muscles so we are able to more quickly shift from stress, anger, and reactivity to calm, cool, and responsive even in the face of chaos.
If you have read any of my previous articles, I write about trauma being energy stuck in the body affecting our overall health and wellness and how it is each individual’s responsibility to look into ways to heal and release that energy. I write about how the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Score is directly related to poor physical and mental health outcomes in adults. I write about how important it is to begin advocating for ourselves. It is not your fault what has happened to you in your lifetime, but it is your responsibility to heal from it.
Mental fitness is something that needs to become as well known and acknowledged as physical fitness. A person cannot expect to be whole and healthy when the focus is too narrow to include all aspects of the human experience (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and ancestral).
This is the basic premise of mental fitness that I teach and train clients within my role as a mental fitness trainer.
- Notice your emotional hijack or reactivity. (Typically a negative emotion or constrictive energy/feeling.)
- Pause. Notice sensations in your body.
- Shift. Choose a new response. (Try activating a positive emotion such as curiosity, empathy, creativity, or looking at the situation from a neutral perspective such as pretending to be the light fixture in the room.)
This alone, done 100X per day, reprograms neural pathways in your brain. You begin activating parts of your brain and nervous system that have been dormant for years. You begin taking responsibility for your actions and behaviour and putting even a small pause in between action and reaction.
If you do nothing else, this practice will begin to help you feel lighter, make decisions easier, and experience more peace and joy in your life. Your brain and nervous system will stop operating on reactivity and default patterns and begin creating space for new experiences and responses.
You can take this practice even further by re-imagining situations (past or present) that did not go the way you wanted them to. What could have happened differently? How could you have paused in the moment and chosen a different response?
This practice, much like athletes that rehearse physical maneuvers in their minds over and over, is just as good as pausing and responding in the actual moment. Neural pathways are reprogrammed by using the imagination and creativity parts of your brain to recreate the situations and then you are more likely to choose the new response going forward.
Mental fitness is absolutely something that can be practiced and used on your own. You do not need me or anyone else to tell you how to do these things. You can find free resources on my website www.hollymccorriston.com and www.positiveintelligence.com to help you get started. However, if you would prefer some additional support and accountability and are ready to start in August, I am currently accepting applications for private clients in my 12-week Be Your Own Hero program. I am also running a small group program beginning August 16th, 2021. You can book a free, no obligation call to see if working together is right for you on my website. (Be sure to mention you have read this article as I have a free bonus for Kindersley Social readers!)
I will not be taking any new clients after August 2021 as I’m expecting my first child later this year and I’m busy taking my own advice: being my own hero and setting myself up so that I have lots of time and energy to embrace this new adventure!
And if you were curious about those clients with a PQ Score of 9 & 15 I mentioned earlier? In only 9 weeks, one lady shifted into the 40s and was feeling drastic improvement in her anxiety levels both at work and with family. Another woman ended our 12-weeks of work together with a PQ Score of 92 and couldn’t believe she had spent so much of her life letting the negative part of her mind dominate. She also has so much newfound gratitude for all the life she still has left with her new stronger mental muscles and the skills, tools, and abilities to continue noticing, pausing, and shifting in each moment.
If you get nothing else from this article, please know that you do have the power to choose what feels best for you in each moment. You don’t need to continue letting stress and anxiety from old, protective, negative pathways dominate you anymore. Your brain is plastic and mental fitness might be just what you need to start building new, positive connections in your brain, nervous system, and life.
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