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Gratitude is just the beginning – Bite Back’s Mental Fitness Challenge

16 October 2018 - Dr Jan Orman

We could all do with a little improvement in our “mental fitness.” It would help us manage those moments of anxiety and low mood, but it would also help us manage the ordinary stresses in our daily lives.

There’s a lot of information online about what we need to do to improve our mental fitness. Most of it provides us a list of do’s and don’ts without much further support. It leaves us to develop our own fitness strategies and programs and many of us just don’t know where to start.

A structured mental fitness program is what we need

In a busy corner of the internet Black Dog Institute’s BITE BACK website for teenagers quietly relaunched itself a couple of months ago. If you’re not familiar with the site, take a look at it here: It’s a great place for young teens to go for help in building positivity in their lives.

There’s a hidden gem on the site that is suitable for all age groups. It’s the 6-week structured Mental Fitness Challenge. The Challenge was developed for young people, but I know lots of older people who have had some very positive benefits from doing the challenge – including me! We undertook the challenge at my workplace in an office filled with people of all ages and we all found it very helpful.

6 Weeks of the Challenge

The first week of the challenge was an eye opener for me. It focusses on gratitude and gives the participant some simple exercises to do. I found that the need to think of three things I was grateful for at the end of each day was an excellent way to shift my perceptions. I guess I didn’t realise just how problem focussed I was!  The exercises started me thinking about positive things from time to time during the day in preparation for writing my list and shifted the way I was looking at the world.  It occurred to me that maybe I was even forging new pathways in my brain. By the end of just one week I was noticing that the grateful thinking was becoming a habit and I was feeling a little better because of it.

Gratitude is just the beginning. Subsequent weeks suggest exercises to do around mindfulness, social connectedness, recognition of personal strengths and finding meaning and purpose in life. In the last week your activities are put together in a Mental Fitness Plan poster that, if you see fit, you can hang on your bedroom wall to remind yourself of the good things you learnt.

Where can you use this idea?

The Challenge has been designed for teenagers to do on their own, but I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about this and many have been inspired to take the idea home to their families to do the Challenge as a family group. Several teachers have decided to use it with their classes and a number of managers have undertaken to try it out in the workplace as a group activity like we did in our office.

Have a look at the site – I’m sure you will be able to think of an application for it in your life too.

Dr Jan Orman
Dr Jan Orman

Jan is Sydney GP, private psychological medicine practitioner in Sydney’s inner west and a GP educator for Black Dog Institute.

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