Wellness Basic Training, Part 4: Mental Wellness Training

basic training education habits law enforcement mental health reading stress wellnes training writing Sep 17, 2022

Train Your Brain!

Mental health wellness training dives into the why and how of understanding and training your thoughts and enhancing the ability to encourage specific thoughts.

You are expanding your mental strength and enhancing your cognitive abilities by training in the mental realm of wellness daily.  

You are training your brain on perception, attention, memory, language, learning, problem-solving, decision-making skills, and abilities.

Most people stop educating themselves on a broad level after their formal education ends. Your brain is no different than any other "muscle." Without a proactive effort to work out your brain, it will atrophy, negatively affecting how you interact with the world around you and how you interact with yourself.

Expanding your view of the world and yourself has the added benefit of aiding you in evaluating who you are, what is important to you, and how you want to act and react. It even has the potential to assist in examining the underlying assumptions you were taught somewhere along your life journey.

How do you train your brain, you ask?

Mind-Enlarging Activities

You can exercise your brain with activities enhancing your brain power or cognitive processes. These are also known as mind-enlarging activities.

Mind-enlarging activities include:

  • Writing or journaling.
  • Going to a museum.
  • Doing puzzles.
  • Playing chess.
  • Playing board games, schooling.
  • Learning a new hobby (how to knit or play guitar).
  • Reading. 

Today I'll focus on two of those ideas: reading and writing.

Writing

Writing daily helps you process and analyze your thought patterns and catch yourself when you have specific reactions. And, if you write daily, "catching yourself" becomes something you can do more effectively and efficiently.

Now I know that many in law enforcement aren't "down" with writing about their thoughts or emotions.  

But, look at it this way. 

You are affected by stress, right? 

Stress often comes from encounters with people you work with or the people you interact with within your community. 

The good news is that through writing, you can take steps to counteract how you are storing, handling, or processing that stress. And just like an athlete performing a skill, you must practice.

Thankfully, unlike an athlete, it doesn't take hours and hours to do that. In only 10 minutes or less a day, you can try a writing exercise to catch your thoughts and see where they're going.

I recommend keeping your writings because you can return to them and see patterns in your thoughts or emotions seasonally, yearly, or whatever.

But if you don't want to keep it, don't keep it. There may be times when you're worried about somebody seeing it, so throw it away, burn it, or tear it into a million pieces. 

Also, don't worry about grammar. Your writings and musings are just for you, so just write them.

Reading 

Read every day. 

Reading broadens your mind, expands your vision, and helps you see things differently.

I'll explain the importance of this section through a series of quotes.

"Reading as a way to truly liberate yourself from bad habits and bad thinking and how to zero in on where and how to find real wisdom and real life."- Ryan Holiday.

"Reading is indispensable." -Seneca (Seneca is one of the Stoics, and I think all law enforcement can benefit from studying the Stoics.) 

Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” -President Harry S. Truman.

"When we read, we change our attitude. And when we change our attitude, we can change ourselves and change the world." -Malcolm X.  

In sum, what you learn through reading will serve you through the rest of your life.

Connect To Your Community

Another reason to engage in mind-enlarging activities in your community is that it can open the door to conversations with the members of the community you serve.

When you can have conversations with people within your community that engage them in something they're also interested in, it improves community relations in your work area.

That could be a sports team that everybody likes, from professional to high school to little league sports leagues. Maybe you work in an area where a minor league stadium is vital to the community.

Do the work!

Schedule it.

Set a timer. 

Make a list! 

Spend the next five to ten minutes doing these things:

  1. Make a list of any mind-enlarging activities you're already doing that enhances, improves, or challenges your cognitive processes. And then, add three to five more things you would like to do. It's important to recognize what you are already doing because it can strengthen the effect of such actions.
  2. Write down techniques and routines for a pre-shift ritual to allow you to focus on your day and eliminate distractions. Athletes do this all the time, a golfer getting ready to putt, a batter getting ready to hit a pitch, or a basketball player getting ready for a free throw. The common thread for all these athletes is that they have a mental ritual to clear their minds before doing an activity. 
  3. Write down five books or things that you would like to read. When I say things, I mean a periodical, a newsletter, something you have been interested in but perhaps haven't taken the time to look into yet.

Stay Tuned for Part 5- Spiritual Wellness!

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