Government of New Brunswick

What is it?

Mental fitness refers to a state of psychosocial well-being, it means having a positive sense of how we feel, think, and act, which improves our ability to enjoy life. It contributes to our innate ability to be self-determined.

Based on the Self-determination theory, the satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness (CAR) leads the way to reach and maintain a healthier lifestyle while also improving our psychological well-being (mental fitness)  (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Ryan, 1995).

What does it look like?

A person who demonstrate high levels of mental fitness often have the following characteristics:

  • Knowledge of their strengths, limitation and interests
  • Creativity
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution
  • Accountable for their actions and decisions
  • Seek help when needed
  • Follow their ideas and actions in spite of difficulty or opposition

To read more about the portrait of mental fitness, click here

Why does it matter?

Mental fitness is fundamental to drive positive lifestyle changes and is also a strong predictor of physical health. Improved mental fitness motivates us for positive lifestyle changes around healthy eating, increased physical activity, and tobacco-free living.

In contrast, when the three basic psychological needs (competence, autonomy, and relatedness) are not met, individuals are at higher risk for experiencing difficulties related to their emotional, social, and physical wellness.

Research also tell us that people who experience higher levels of mental fitness live longer, are more successful in school and at work, are happier in their relationships, and are less prone to mental illnesses.

For Mental Fitness data from our New Brunswick Student Wellness Survey, click here

What can you do?

The opportunities to improve our mental fitness begin in our homes, schools, communities and workplaces! There are various things we can do to encourage an environment that improve mental fitness.    

  • Organize activities that are conducive to generating people’s interest and engagement
  • Promote success
  • Give constructive feedback
  • Provide active listening
  • Take into account suggestions from others
  • Make expectations clear and give the significance and usefulness of, and the reason for, the task assigned
  • Give choices
  • Suggest rather than dictate
  • Reduce all coercive approaches
  • Welcome and take into account others’ ideas
  • Show empathy for others
  • Respect, accept, and take an interest in others
  • Be present and attentive (mindful) to others’ need for competence, autonomy and relatedness

For more general information on mental fitness and how you can improve it, you can access this infographic and this information sheet.

You can also explore this series of infographics that each highlight:

If you would like to adopt a mental fitness approach in your program or activities, access the mental fitness in programs and activities information sheet.

Strategies to adopt in a school environment to improve mental fitness are available on the mental fitness in school information sheet.

Make a commitment to

Focus on competence

  • Learn new skills.
  • Share your gift and knowledge
  • Identify the strengths within your community

Focus on Autonomy

  • Recognize and express your emotions and feelings
  • Give choices and a voice to others
  • Take action to positively impact your community

Focus on Relatedness

  • Get to know yourself
  • Become a volunteer at a location of interest to you
  • Connect with the people in your community


Where can you go for more information?

Mental fitness and the Self-Determination Theory

The mental fitness approach is mainly inspired by the Self-Determination Theory (SDT) and uses the three psychological needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness (CAR) as a fundamental piece to increase our psychological well-being. For more information on SDT, please visit

Mental fitness in schools

Mental fitness in the workplace