About HeadFIT for Life
We know we need to keep our bodies fit. We need to keep our heads fit too.
We all recognize that feeling when our head is in the right place – the moments when we’re feeling positive and confident about what we’re trying to achieve, when we’re on top of our game.
Most of us go the other way too. Everyone has thoughts, feelings and behaviours that don’t really work for us or the people around us. At home and at work.
The fact is, our heads are active all the time. In any day we can feel excited, stressed, irritable, elated, up and down…it’s all completely normal and goes right back to our earliest instincts.
What’s more, the science now shows us that these instinctive patterns don’t need to hold us back. By understanding how our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and bodily sensations all interact, we can actually help re-wire our brains to work better for us.
There’s a range of proven, everyday tools and habits to help us with that. But a great start is to STOP and become aware of how you are responding to things.
This is the moment you come off autopilot, CHALLENGE what’s going on in your head and, if it’s appropriate, CHANGE the way you’re thinking.
It’s the basis of HeadFIT for Life.
Learn to check in with yourself and get into the habit of using the tools that are right for you.
DIG DEEPER TO UNDERSTAND THE SCIENCE BEHIND HEADFIT FOR LIFE
If you understand why you think and feel and behave in particular ways, you’re much more likely to be able to control your response to things. And you’re more likely to actually use the HeadFIT tools.
So there are a couple of models (ways of understanding) that we want to introduce you to.
The first is the Cognitive Model
The basic idea is this: the way we think (thoughts), feel (emotions) and behave (actions) as well as our physical sensations, are all linked and impact each other. If we understand the connections between these four elements of ourselves, we can take more ownership on how we choose to respond to things – and ultimately having more control over ourselves will have a positive impact on our general wellbeing and our ability to perform daily.
Negative thoughts can create negative behaviours. Which in turn can make us feel bad about ourselves and lead to unpleasant bodily sensations. This cycle can work in all sorts of directions – both positively and negatively. So in another scenario, we might do something great (a behaviour) which might make us feel really good and this in turn produces positive thoughts and great bodily sensations. You can see how a negative or positive loop can emerge.
If we wake up in a bad mood, not even aware of why this is so, we can determine the path of the day by choosing a behaviour which will contribute towards lifting our mood or we can look at alternate ways of thinking that will lead us towards a more positive mindset. We can make decisions about what we can and can’t do. It sounds simple but it’s extraordinarily effective.
So by just recognising the way these elements are linked gives us a huge leg-up in our ability to create positive changes.
Adapted from: Greenberger, D., & Padesky, C. A. (1995). Mind over mood: A cognitive therapy treatment manual for clients. Guilford Press.
The second is the Emotional Regulation Model
Do you sometimes feel like your emotions are charged in a way which isn’t helpful to you? Would you like to feel more in control of your emotions so that you can use them to your advantage?
The truth is emotions are powerful. If we’re in a good mood we’re more likely to take on new challenges and deal effectively with our to-do list. If we’re in a bad mood – not so much. If we want to achieve Mental Fitness we need to work on keeping our emotions manageable and consistent. There are three different but interacting emotional systems which should (in theory) work in harmony together.
- The Fight/Flight/Freeze system or Threat and Self Protection System
- The Drive-Excitement System or Incentive and Resource Seeking System
- The soothing and contentment system
The Fight / Flight / Freeze system is an ancient one, intended for our survival. Its function is to detect a threat and help us respond physically and it can generate really uncomfortable emotions and sensations (sweaty palms, heart racing, butterflies in stomach). The trouble is it’s the loudest of the systems and often triggers when it’s not absolutely necessary. Getting stuck in traffic and being late for a meeting is obviously not the same as coming face to face with a wolf . . . so we need to work hard to engage one of the other systems (the soothing and contentment system) to help calm it down and restore balance.
The Drive – Excitement system also known as the Incentive and Resource Seeking System is designed to provide us with the nice feelings we feel when we achieve something or gain something that contributes to our survival. In other words, it is our reward system. When we achieve something like winning a competition, getting a promotion or even falling in love, we get a lovely dump of a chemical called dopamine and this results in us experiencing pleasurable emotions such as excitement, happiness or feeling energised. This in turn drives us to seek out and engage in these behaviours again. Sometimes we can enjoy these feelings so much that our drive systems get a little out of balance, in a sense it gets a bit over-excited. And this means that we are neglecting other areas in our lives. Our Drive system is vital to emotional health and Mental Fitness but there is a basic biological drive to create balance, so if you are constantly pushing yourself you need to keep a check on it and use the other systems to rebalance and give you the best chance to remain in control of your emotions.
The Soothing and Contentment system is all about bringing a sense of calm and peacefulness to ourselves which helps to rebalance the other two systems if they are firing too much. If you think about animals when they are not fending off prey (fight/flight/freeze system) or are not on the chase for something (drive system), they are resting, being content with what is going on around them and they are able to rest calm and secure. This state of being results in feelings of contentment and can be achieved by actively slowing down and engaging in calming, kind behaviours and thoughts as this system is triggered when we engage in soothing and kind behaviours towards ourselves and allow ourselves to receive them from others. A substance called endorphins (happy hormones) are released around our body when we engage in these sorts of behaviours and result in a feeling of contentment and a calm sense of well-being.
A number of tools within HeadFIT encourage you to engage with your compassionate and kind self as well as your soothing emotion system because we know this will enhance your levels of Mental Fitness and levels of Performance by helping you rebalance your drive, threat and calming systems.