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Over the past year, we have collectively, as a country and global community, experienced higher-than-normal stress levels due to the global pandemic, political upheaval, and social injustices. This translates to many unique and challenging concerns for each of us as individuals.

Statistically, we know mental health has declined for a large portion of the population, manifesting in elevated levels of anxiety and depression. Practicing good mental wellness exercises can be a path to increasing our mental health both in the moment and preventatively moving forward, as well as our overall mental resiliency.

Having mental resilience can help us sustain challenging situations and recover from difficult times. We can grow our “resiliency muscle” with mental workouts, similar to how we develop our physical strength with physical exercise.

In Part Three of this three-part series, we’ll explore solution-focused exercises designed to teach the brain to focus on solutions instead of dwelling on problems ­­— and help build our mental resiliency muscles. (Here is Part One, on mind-body grounding exercises, and Part Two, on thought-shifting exercises.)

We can live in the world in one of two ways: problem-saturated or solution-focused. When we are problem-saturated, we lean toward having a pessimistic view of ourselves, others, and the world around us, finding problems everywhere we look. This mindset can lead to being in a constant state of victimhood.

When we are solution-focused, we stay in a problem-solving mindset that leans toward an optimistic view of ourselves, others, and the world around us. This mindset allows for creativity, innovation, and growth. By using solution-focused exercises, we can train our brains to shift from finding problems to identifying solutions.

When you feel overwhelmed, and life seems saturated with problems, activate the following exercises. However, if you can also exercise your brain in this way daily, it can offer long-term benefits to your mental wellness.

1. Appreciation Exercise

What do you love and appreciate about others in your life? Share it with them in a note, email, text, or phone call. Infuse your immediate world with positive messaging.

2. Protection Exercise

Protect your hope by limiting media exposure, avoiding spending too much time with people who cause you to feel worried, and not over-focusing on negative thoughts. Distract yourself by doing things that make you feel normal and happy, such as working out, cooking, or watching your favorite show.

3. Kindness Exercise

Increase acts of kindness and compassion toward others. Being in an empathetic frame of mind helps you feel better.

4. Future Exercise

Create a positive visual of how you and those you love will make it through the crisis at hand by writing out a paragraph describing your ideal future.

Jen Elmquist, MA, LMFT

Jen Elmquist, MA, LMFT, is the director and co-creator of Life Time Mind, Life Time’s internal performance coaching program. She’s also the author of Relationship Reset.

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