As a boarding school student, when you exercise mental fitness, you will be able to tap into a higher growth mindset. Although boarding schools naturally cultivate a positive and goal-oriented type of outlook, as a student, it is up to you to do the inner work to observe your personal thought patterns and behaviors. 

West coast boarding schools like Army and Navy Academy (Carlsbad), Webb School (Claremont), Thacher (Ojai), and Cate (Carpinteria) intentionally construct their courses and daily routine to help unlock every student’s potential. They often incorporate mindfulness, mental fitness, and a growth mindset into all aspects of academic, athletic, and campus life. 


Here are ten tips to get you started with mental fitness and the development of a growth mindset while attending a boarding school. 

1. Write down your goals and aspirations

As the saying often goes, if you don’t know where you want to go, it is hard to figure out how to get there. Even if it is tough to determine your long-term goals, begin to compartmentalize and think of the things you want to accomplish in the present. This will get you started on a path to achieve near-term goals, but also help you gain an understanding of what some longer-terms goals might be. For instance, let’s say you want to get an “A” grade in biology. Well, perhaps, this is an indicator of your interest in the sciences and could lead to a long term goal for a college major and career direction.

2. Seek out challenges

Attending a boarding school is fraught with challenges, everything from navigating a conflict with a roommate to what sports to participate in during a season. Regardless, don’t just react to challenges, seek them out. Try new AP and honors classes, electives, clubs, sports, spring trips abroad, and various weekend activities and excursions. Also, expand your role as a leader, mentor, and guide. Realizing you’re not the only one who has had or is having a tough time can make you find your focus, be centered, become more empathic and address challenges more successfully.

3. Analyze ways to improve

At the end of each day, step back and think about one area where you could have done things differently. This will begin to exercise your mind’s ability to slow things down, observe yourself, and change course as needed. Also, consider keeping a journal or record of areas where you have made improvements. This will keep you motivated and instill the self-discipline you need to achieve what you want.

4. Face adversity with grit

Life is full of challenges and your ability to face adversity with grit, tenacity, and a plan to persevere will be essential throughout your life.  It is more important than ever to learn how to ease up on yourself, while at the same time, figure out how to address tough times. In thinking back on this last year, reflect on a situation that was hard for you and how you addressed it. If you are currently attending a boarding school, you have probably acquired some life habits that helped, like time management, prioritization of tasks, goal-setting, and how to balance your daily schedule.  You have learned how to make choices and decisions independently as you plan your academic schedule, make elective choices, and participate in extracurricular activities like clubs and sports. In addition, you have learned how to work in teams, deal with a roommate, seek out mentors, and be a guide for others. All of these things help you gain grit and determination.

5. Know your weaknesses and strengths

If you want to become more mentally fit, don’t shy away from a realistic assessment of both your strengths and weaknesses. By identifying areas for personal growth, you will develop new talents and skills. This is all part of why a growth mindset is so important. Rather than just relying on your genetic makeup, a growth mindset helps you adopt the belief that you can develop your mind and capabilities. In essence, rather than saying, it all depends on my IQ or my inborn talents, you tackle the things that interest you and become smarter and more adept.

6. Look at the long-term

Being in high school, your mind might not be focused on the future; however, the decisions you make now are having a future impact. For example, if you choose friends with poor study habits, this could affect your academic performance.. Other examples that have far reaching consequences on your future include developing addictive habits or engaging in high risk behaviors. If you really want to be mentally fit and adopt a growth mindset, every choice you make has an impact on your future.

7. Seek out people who will challenge you

Boarding schools offer many challenges in the form of intellectual pursuits, lively discourse and debate, as well as athletic and leadership opportunities.  Remember to seek out faculty, staff, administrators, and peers who will challenge you to become the best version of yourself. Your values, habits, and outlook are being shaped during adolescence, so this is a perfect time to challenge yourself by surrounding yourself with people who will challenge you.

8. Do things you have never done before

Trying new things can mean anything from having an international roommate, traveling abroad, playing a new sport, trying a new club, or even things like getting your pilot’s license, flying drones, surfing, becoming a top leader, or taking an AP or honors class.

9. Practice positive affirmations

Using your thoughts and imagination to affirm positive thoughts and visualize things can help you make your dreams become a reality. The use of the mind to imagine and visualize can inspire you to become a smarter or better person, keep you calm in turbulent times, or even help you reach peak performance in an area of interest. For example, athletes often make mindfulness, meditation or affirmations a part of their daily outlook and personal development.

10. Write an annual letter to yourself

Sit yourself down once a year and write a letter to yourself about your goals and dreams. Write down what you have learned, insights about who you are, where you are going, and the steps you will take to get there. Tuck the letter in a drawer with a date to open it and keep these letters so that you can review them year over year. You will witness incredible progress in your mental fitness and growth mindset.

Commonly Asked Questions about Mental Fitness and a Growth Mindset

What is a growth mindset?

Dweck, a leader in this field, explains the concept quite clearly in this statement. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

What is mental fitness?

According to BetterUp, “Mental fitness can be defined as having and maintaining a state of well-being and cultivating awareness of how we think, behave and feel.” 

Why is mental fitness important?

Healthline points out that “mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness, and shouldn’t be neglected. Including mental dexterity exercises into your daily routine can help you reap the benefits of a sharper mind and a healthier body for years to come.” It can help you learn how to create calm, slow things down, pace yourself, lower stress, and even boost your memory.

What are some examples of mental fitness?

Mental fitness really begins by establishing healthy life habits and daily balance. Take time to reflect, explore new ideas and perspectives, enjoy socializing, try new things and venture outside your comfort zone. Watch any tendencies to blur boundaries, overextend yourself, and lean into negative thinking. By being responsible for yourself, you will chart a course that will serve you well in boarding school, college, and in life.

How can I improve my mental health at school?

Begin with the basics, like nutrition, sleep, and exercise. These should all be an integral part of staying mentally and physically fit. Then, begin to expand this daily routine in your school day with time to reflect or meditate and do journal work where you can observe your thoughts, actions, and express your gratitude.  Be open to change and face adversity directly. Make smart choices that are deliberate and seek out support as needed. 

In short, as you can see, mental fitness and a growth mindset are very closely linked. By cultivating good mental fitness habits in boarding school, you will naturally adopt a growth mindset. You will become a more alert and observant person, but also a person who develops the openness, grit and perseverance to face and deal with challenges when they present themselves. Rather than give up or feel like you must possess some innate talent to accomplish your goals, you will take charge of how you think, behave, and feel. 

Ready to make a change? If you are not enrolled in a boarding school, check out The Association of Boarding Schools to view schools and learn more: To learn more, contact Army and Navy Academy today!