When we compare the mind to a muscle we gain a sense of the importance of mental fitness
A muscle, in its relaxed state, gradually loses mass. Over time, if muscles aren’t worked, (stressed) they weaken. As we age this kind of entropy accelerates, as such, regular exercise becomes increasingly important. There’s no doubt the same applies to the mind.
When the mind is relaxed it wanders
These wanderings are when we’re fantasising and thinking about the past or imagined futures. It stands to reason, that when the mind is relaxed and drifting in this way, it will be using far less energy than when fully engaged, and in the present moment. This can become a lazy habit and is extremely addictive. The reason it’s so addictive is because the mind likes to conserve energy and so rewards us when we do. It feels nice to reminisce. It feels nice to fantasise.
The problem being, not everything we like is useful, or, in the long term, good for us. The antidote is awareness, and as we now know, this awareness takes more energy, than our lazy minds, would prefer to give. And so the key to dealing with this, is meditation.
There is a common misconception that meditation is a relaxed state of mind.
It is difficult to single-pointedly focus the mind when it’s relaxed. We do need to be fully awake and alert in order to achieve this kind of focus. Consider the weight trainer working his muscles. For muscles to grow they need to be placed under stress. The more often our weight trainer goes to the gym, the fitter and stronger, his muscles become. So following on with our comparison we can now see that daily meditation is a must if we seek mental fitness. Regular meditation conditions the mind to cease its lazy habit of wandering into a relaxed state.
Daily meditation increases our tolerance to stress
Just as our weight trainer gains stamina through regular workouts, daily meditation, conditions the mind to become better at dealing with the energy demands and stressors associated with being fully alert. Study any successful person and you will find attributes that include: mental fitness, a high tolerance to stress, and a mind that is predominantly in the present moment.
Even though a meditative state is that of being energetic and alert, the paradox is this: In time, the mind becomes accustomed to seeking the presence, peace and strength, it provides. Again we can compare this to how regular workouts, that apply stress to the body, make everyday activities much easier.