Dr. Paul Wood’s Mental Fitness offers stimulating and vital advice on building one’s mental fitness. Mental fitness and resilience, Wood explains, entail coping with difficult situations, recovering afterwards, and moving forward. His personal story is an inspirational one, having come from a background of family illness, violence, and drug abuse to then complete most of his tertiary education in New Zealand prisons. He reveals the essential habits of thought and action gleaned from personal experience and years of extensive research.
The book encompasses stress, positive thinking, self-care, and the process of setting goals, creating habits, and forming character. Essential to building one’s mental strength is a healthy lifestyle, which involves a nutritional diet, regular fitness, and a proper sleep schedule. Setting clear boundaries between work and private life are crucial to protecting one’s personal life and relationships.
The format and content of Mental Fitness is commendably multi-faceted. In his enthusiastic reflections on the physical, mental, and emotional factors of mental fitness and resilience, Wood draws on an wide range of scientific and literary sources, from psychological and biological facts to Platonic and Stoic philosophy, the Early Modern English poetry of John Donne and Andrew Marvell, and William Shakespeare’s Othello and Macbeth.
Mental Fitness offers a range of handy templates and models for cementing habits and establishing meaningful lifestyles. Amongst these are the SMART goalsetting template, Charles Duhigg’s 3 Rs of habit formation, and Martin Seligman’s PERMA-H model, which stands for positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, and health. Wood also presents practical ideas for the formation of positive character and habits such as “scripting” your life and keeping a journal.
Of great interest to me was Wood’s exploration of the New Zealand military’s Stress Exposure Training, and the mindsets and practices of special forces operators such as the New Zealand SAS and the US Navy SEALs, who constantly train to improve themselves physically and intellectually, and make use of mental toughness to achieve their goals successfully.
Written in a clear, concise, and jargon-free way, Mental Fitness is a completely accessible and informative text. Wood provides helpful explanations and definitions of psychological terminology and a list of references for further research. By incorporating personal anecdotes, hypothetical scenarios, and charts to fill in, Wood interacts with the reader.
Mental Fitness would be an ideal book for older readers because of its highly positive messages and useful tips. I would recommend it to anyone interested in techniques for self-development, healthy living, and finding balance and purpose. Mental Fitness is both an encouraging memoir and an exciting self-help guide.
Reviewer: Azariah Alfante
HarperCollins, RRP: $36.99