Practice Drills for Mental FitnessMay 18, 2023
Just like swimming or playing the piano or cooking, when we’re trying to practice any new skill, the better more specific the practice is, the faster our overall proficiency improves.
In today’s episode of the podcast, I’m giving you some very specific practice drills for your mental fitness.
Maybe you’ve listened to this podcast and tried to implement some of the tools I teach, but they just aren’t working for you in the moment.
This is true for so many of us. We understand, in theory, how these concepts should work. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to apply in real life.
The drills I’m sharing today will help you to improve your ability to change your thoughts and manage your brain.
Why practice drills work
My son and I are currently training for a swim run event, and we’re following a program that includes different drills every single day.
And I’ve come to realize that each swimming drill brings my attention to a different part of the stroke. It makes me notice what is happening, and noticing it changes the way I perform the stroke.
The same is true when it comes to your thoughts.
Drilling makes a difference. Often I look at my swim drill for the day and think, “Why? What is the point of that? How will that make a difference?” But it always does. It changes my stroke, it makes me more efficient.
It doesn’t take much drilling to make a big difference. You can make a big change by putting your whole attention toward something, even if it’s only for a short time. When you practice specific portions of something, whether it’s swimming or thought work, you WILL get better at it.
Practice Drills for Mental Fitness
Make sure you grab your free PDF of all of the drills, including some that didn’t make it into the podcast!
It’s a pretty long list, so keep it as a reference and decide at different times which drills you want to practice when.
These will allow you to make your thought work more efficient. You’ll be able to drop into your body quicker, allow your feelings easier, drop your resistance faster and come up with other options and thoughts.
Drills for Your Thoughts
In this exercise, you try to describe what’s happening in your life using only facts. Set the thoughts, feelings and judgments to the side and focus on the actual circumstances.
There is what happened, and then there’s all the meaning that your brain has created around it. Practice telling the difference between the two.
Say Yes to the C(ircumstance)
Sometimes we have so much resistance to the things that we don’t have any control over. Something happens out in the world or someone makes a choice that we don’t like. We say, “That shouldn’t have happened. They shouldn’t have done that. It shouldn’t be this way.”
What if you set aside your idea about what is “supposed to” happen and simply say yes to the circumstance. What if you wanted this to be the same? What if you could drop your resistance?
This skill helps us to make the best decisions about what we want to think, how we want to show up and how we want to solve problems.
The Thought-Feeling Connection
In this drill, you’ll simply notice every time you have a feeling and ask what thought created that feeling for you.
You’re not trying to change it. You’re just making a connection between your experience and your thought.
Take a break from being the thinker, and be the watcher of what your brain is thinking.
View yourself and your thoughts like an observer on the outside looking in.
What’s the Opposite?
When your brain offers you a thought, as yourself, “What’s the opposite?” If your brain says your failing, the opposite is that you’re succeeding. And there is a lot of space and a whole spectrum of other thoughts in between.
The point of this drill is not to change your mind, but to show you how many options there are for you to think.
Drills for Your Feelings
Create a Feeling
Choose a feeling (maybe one from the list of feelings in the PDF), and ask yourself, “What would I have to think to feel that?”
This is another version of connecting your thoughts to a feeling. The more we can show ourselves that we are the creators of our feelings, the more power we have to change our thoughts.
All you need to do for this drill is ask yourself throughout a day, “What am I feeling now?” Notice it and give it a name. This is a good one to link to another activity you do regularly throughout the day.
In general, we are pretty unaware of what we're feeling. We spend a lot of time in our heads, with our thoughts, but we're walking around pretty disembodied.
Learning to feel is such an important skill in terms of your mental and emotional wellness.
Find the Feeling
A lot of times when we talk about feelings, we think about them as mental experiences, but they are actually physical ones.
Every feeling has some kind of physical manifestation in your body.
Try to locate the feeling physically in your body. Is it in your neck, chin, upper back, chest, belly, hands? Look for tension, tightness, heat or cold.
All Angles Feeling
Once you locate the feeling in your body, look at it from every angle. What does it look like from the top? From the bottom? From the side? From inside of it?
While you do this, you’re also allowing the feeling to be felt.
This is an exercise for looking back after you’ve already taken an action.
Ask yourself, “What was I feeling when I did that?”
You can use this for actions that you don’t like or for actions that you do like and want to repeat.
In this exercise, there is an action that you want to take, so you ask yourself, “What would I need to feel in order to do that thing?”
Then practice feeling that feeling in advance.
The Feeling Buffet
This is another way to notice that no matter how you’re feeling, it is not the only thing there is to feel.
Notice what you’re feeling. Then, come up with three other options.
Your mental fitness, just like anything else in your life, requires practice. And the more you practice specific skills and bring your attention to it, the more ability you have to use those skills in the moment.
Wherever your mental fitness is right now, it is exactly where it should be. And there's more and it can be greater. As you do the work to build your skills, the amount of power and control you have over your own life is just going to grow.
- How changing your thoughts is a skill you can train for (and how is showing up in my swim run training)
- Why drills are so effective at building and strengthening skills
- 12 simple drills to practice so you can manage your thoughts and feelings more efficiently
Mentioned in this episode:
- Download the PDF of Mental Fitness Drills (just fill out the form at the top of this page!)
- Get a free day pass to the Coaching Club
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