Monday 20 November 2017

Bressie: Respect the mind - it deserves a workout too

It's time we all explored the unlimited benefits of improving our mental fitness and use it to both triumph and prosper, says Niall Breslin

Bressie: Look at the mind as a muscle.
Bressie: Look at the mind as a muscle.

Much of what we hear in the media and throughout the expanding dialogue surrounding mental health and emotional wellbeing has been centred around distressing issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide.

I feel if we are to normalise the conversation and make it more accessible to all layers of society, we have to also address the vast array of other aspects of mental health, such as improving resilience, psychological fitness and arming the mind with the tools to not just cope with life, but also triumph and prosper.

Many of the founding thinkers behind positive psychology suggested that psychology in the past was perceived as something that existed to make distressed and unhappy people less unhappy and able to cope, but in recent years psychology has been used as a tool to make happy, content people even happier and more embracing of life.

Psychology has also become increasingly prevalent in performance-based fields such as sport and business to allow people deal with stressful situations and remain calm under pressure, and as Bryce Courtenay suggested in The Power of One, "the mind is the athlete".

The reason I wanted to highlight the broadness and relevance of psychology is because I feel that in this country, we have a skewed and shadowed perception of what counselling, therapy and other areas of talk-based supports actually are, and who could benefit from engaging with such practices. This stigmatised perception is often the roadblock for those wishing to travel the liberating and rewarding path of investing in their minds.

In fact many of our top CEOs, athletes, and societal leaders have recognised the benefit of the therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and visualisation techniques in allowing them to have the mental fitness to perform at a high level for prolonged periods, and not become consumed by stress and psychological fatigue or burnout, which can result in long periods out of work.

In the exact same way, many of us attend gyms on a daily basis, partake in often restrictive diets and get relentlessly bombarded with confusing and vague information about our bodies. We need to start altering our attitudes to how we invest and educate our minds, which is where practices such as talk therapy, mindfulness and relaxation techniques come into play. It's important to recognise the link between the body and the mind. If one is out of equilibrium, you can guarantee the other will also suffer.

Look at the mind as a muscle, in the same way it can be weakened it can be strengthened. If you don't use it for long periods, it will become stagnant, and if you overuse it, it will become fatigued and lethargic. Don't play life lottery with that piece of meat between your ears, respect it and appreciate it, it's one of the greatest gifts you have.

* Vhi A Lust For Life 5k/10k Phoenix Park Run takes place on Saturday March 5 at 10am. Entry is €20 and you can sign up at

The Vhi A Lust For Life 5k/10k Park Run takes place on Saturday March 5 at 10am. Entry is €20 and you can sign up at

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