Mental health. Where do we even begin? From a historical perspective, we began in 1929 as the Public Health Services Narcotics Division. Since then, what we now know as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), has shifted names and affiliates over seven times. It’s taken on many roles and funded several research studies. Although it is the largest research institute in the world, it is arguably just scratching the surface on uncovering centuries of poor/nonexistent mental health discussion. Deeply rooted is the need for community involvement. At CrossFit Surmount, we’ve been told we have a strong and unique sense of community and for this weeks focus on mental health, I am to share a though on how we can do better.

The link between CrossFit and community is strong, as is the link between CrossFit (and exercise) and mental health. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “runners high” or “endorphin boost”, but apparently, that high is more like a, well, high. Specifically, a cannabinoid high. Exercise has demonstrated health improvement, benefits for those struggling with addiction, a way to overcome PTSD, and more. There’s no denying that exercising makes us feel good. Despite how much we hate it in the moment, how much we moan and groan of soreness during warm-up, we keep coming back. A large part of that is because of our community. But the things we say, the questions we ask, and how we portray our self-image can have a large impact on our own mental health as well as those around us.

Shame. I’ve heard it. I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. Shame can hide behind innocent intentions of others. A comment that further pushes us into a ruptured self image. Even with god intent, commenting on ones appearance may be salt on a deeply hidden wound. Perhaps it’s a vocal jab at ourselves like, “I’ll never do level 3”. Perhaps it’s an inward wound when we look in the mirror and think ill of ourselves. But what does it mean for us and our health?

Beyond the mental health implications, a study revealed that chronic shame impacted cardiovascular and immune health. So if not for our own mental health or the mental health of others, we should examine ways in which we can erase self-inflicted shame for our physical health. Here’s how:

  1. Affirmations: Every day, start with an “I am” statement. There’s actually an app for that called “I am” (go figure!). Or, when you find yourself bringing yourself down with a negative I am statement, replace it with a positive I am statement. When we talk to ourselves with positive thoughts and feelings, we exude those same thoughts and feelings. Here are some examples:
    • I am learning
    • I am growing
    • I am worthy
    • I am capably
    • I am loved
  2. Gratitude: There are several gratitude journals, apps, and resources online, but you don’t need fancy equipment or a purchase to express gratitude. Simply dedicate 5 minutes a day to think of or write 3 things you are grateful for. To commit to this, pencil it into your calendar
  3. Inquire: This is a process of learning. Learn about your self with self-reflection. Learn about those you admire by asking how they’re doing. Rather than make statements on appearance or capabilities, make compliments on things you admire. Here are 20 to get your juices going.

I want to acknowledge that the topic of mental health is delicate for so many and that my thoughts are not inclusive of everyones experience. I would encourage you to open the conversation with me, with your friends, and with your loved ones to understand them a little more. There is no shame in that. That’s where we can begin.