How do you improve Mental Health by doing a “Mind Workout”?

A Book Review – The Mind Workout: Twenty Steps to Improve Your Mental Health and Take Charge of your Life

By Mark Freeman

How do you improve Mental Health by doing a "Mind Workout"?
How do you improve Mental Health by doing a “Mind Workout”?

What is “Mind Workout”?

When we speak of working out, we can easily relate to building body strength by physical training. However, we seldom say the same when it comes to building our mind. The “Mind workout” is very similar to working out physically. It is about building strength to our brain progressively, and ultimately leading a life with improved mental health.

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What is this book about?

The Mind Workout is a 249-page book divided into 20 chapters (which Mark, the author, referred them as “steps”). As titled, Mark teaches you in 20 steps how you can work out your brain to improve your mental health. Mark suggests that by having better mental health, we would have better control over our life, which will lead to more happiness.

Who is this book for?

I thought this book was originally designed for people who had mental illness and hope to make changes to it. But after finishing it, I think this book is also for people who are aware of the bad habits they developed and hope to make changes. This is because the roots of many bad habits actually stem from mental illness, and by improving our mental health can directly create positive changes to our behaviors.

3 Key lessons from the book

Mark has done a brilliant job structuring the book into 20 practical steps which are easy to follow. There are certain ideas on how to improve mental illness which definitely worth special highlights, and I will write about them separately. In this post, I would like to share 3 key lessons learnt.

Lesson 1: We have feelings, we are NOT a rock

Mark started by telling us a story about how two rocks reacted to a life situation.

There was a landslide which caused the two rocks to fall down from the mountain. One stopped right in front of a farmhouse, almost destroying it. One went straight down and wrecked a barn, only to stop by hitting itself against an even bigger rock.

Lesson 1: We have feelings, we are NOT a rock
Photo by Pille Kirsi on

How do you think the rocks felt?

A rock is a rock and they never feel anything. However, we are all humans and unlike rocks, we have feelings.

Mark pointed out that it is completely normal to have feelings. We are humans and should remember that we are NOT a rock which feels nothing beside behaving like a rock.

The fundamental to improving mental health is to behave like a human and recognise feelings.

Knowing how we feel and appreciating the feeling is the first step we should ever do when we experience any situations.

Lesson 2: Stop coping, checking and controlling

This is the core idea taught throughout the book.

Following from Lesson 1 above, we are humans and we all have feelings. Mark pointed out that “compulsions” are developed when you are accustomed to a certain reaction when your brain register a certain feeling.

Examples may include when you feel extremely sad you will want to eat a chocolate. Or when you feel nervous you will bite your nails.

Lesson 2: Stop coping, checking and controlling
Photo by Marcus Aurelius on

The author spends a large part of the book teaching us how to remove our compulsions by a principle. It is to stop coping, checking and controlling.

The idea is to remove all the “stock-take” mindset and reactive habits, which will harm you in the long term and trap you into a vicious cycle. The key is to stop reacting in a certain way to the feelings you have developed.

As humans, our brains are wired in way that can be easily conceptualized as a “If X then Y” pattern. That means when you have a certain feeling X, you would give a reaction Y. This is actually the basis of how all your compulsions are formed.

Here comes the solution. Remember this new formula “If X then X”.

Meaning which, you should not react to certain feelings. If you feel sad to a certain situation, you should just let this feeling sink in, and do not react to it as how you usually do.

Lesson 3: Do not let fear drive you, let value be your driver

If you successfully remove all your compulsions, you may face another critical problem of losing your bearings.

Let me elaborate a little. Your compulsions are mainly built on fear. When you have fear to certain situations, you will react with a certain course of action. For example, you may check on someone’s social media account when you feel insecure about a relationship.

If you stop coping, checking and controlling such feeling, you can gradually remove this compulsion. In the example above, you may stop checking on someone’s social media account.

However since you have lived with this fear for too long, after removing the compulsion, you also lost the bearing that you had been living together with. Following the example, you do not know now how to function when you feel insecure about a relationship.

The feeling of emptiness would easily occupy you and lead you back to some old bad habits related to the fear. This result is not desirable.

Lesson 3: Do not let fear drive you, let value be your driver
Photo by Taras Makarenko on

Therefore the way forward is to adopt a value-based approach for your life and let them drive you.

Work towards your new habits and let positivity drive your life. These new values and virtues would become your new guides in life in replacement of the fear factors you relied on heavily in the past.

How do we form these new values? The book offered some good advice which you can take reference.


“The Mind Workout” was a book which I came across randomly at the library and I am very grateful to have read this. I applied the knowledge I learnt from this book onto dealing with my own mental illness of spasmodic torticollis and I am feeling the phenomenal impact these 20 steps have made to my mind.

Similar to many good Self-Help books, this book has not been labelled as “bestsellers” but I think it is full of solid and practical content worth reading. Readers who are interested in resolving mental illness or bad habits must definitely give It a try.

I did not go into lengths in this post about how each exercise in the book works. But I encourage you to buy a copy (below) for your own learning purpose. I can assure you that it’s definitely worth your time.

Thank you for reading. I hope you like the content and I will see you again in the next post.

Own the Mind Workout

The links for purchasing these books are paid links via Amazon which we may receive commissions from qualifying purchases.

Get your copy today!

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