Working on your mental fitness is just as important as your physical fitness.


When I first meet Dr. Jackie Kinley, “Jackie” as she quickly insists, it is like being met by a tidal wave of positive energy. Jackie is an example of resilience, as she talks about given her life experiences, a whirlwind and perhaps one of the most important minds in psychology today.

I was keen to interview her having heard about her work in teaching resilience through my life partner who’d completed her course. It had an incredibly profound and positive impact on her own life. I’ve often championed the need for more women in the technology industry and in key roles in our society. As a young teenager, my own stepmother, as an entrepreneur and writer, had an enormous impact on my own life and subsequent outlook on life as a man. She went on to obtain a doctorate in literature at Cardiff University in Wales and learnt Welsh in the process. Today Dr. Harrison Solow is an accomplished writer and author and has returned to her native United States. Hearing about Jackie, I was curious to learn more about the need for women to develop greater resiliency in today’s complex, rapidly changing world. It felt important and as I was to learn, it is–very much so.

We meet at Jackie’s office in downtown Halifax on a cool early December morning, the sun bright and the air clear. It is one of those charming eighteenth century homes converted to an office, full of character,  a few minutes walk from world renowned Dalhousie University’s School of Medicine where she completed her first medical degree as a GP. It was as she was heading out to British Columbia soon after graduating, that she learned her older brother had committed suicide. She went back to further her medical studies, specializing in psychiatry.

She would go on to practice in the United States and provided counseling to people affected by the Columbine high-school shooting in Colorado in her psychotherapy practice. After the events of 9/11 in 2001, they decided to move back to Nova Scotia. All of this lead her to explore deeply what resilience means, what Jackie calls “mental fitness” and why it’s so important. Especially for women in today’s world.

“Men understand force, women understand and use very well, power.” Says Jackie. As one thinks about that, it’s very true. There are more women than ever in the workforce, across all industries from oil and gas to CEO’s of technology companies, doctors and truck drivers. But, she indicates, women aren’t well today. In the developed world, our societies are changing rapidly and part of that is the role and place of women in society and the workforce. We still don’t have enough women in political leadership, on corporate boards or as CEO’s and despite the movement of “MeToo,” old social norms and behaviours remain prevalent. Women today need to develop their mental muscle, their resilience.

Jackie says that resilience is the result of a set of skills and capacities that you can develop and measure in a process she terms learning, building, and measuring. A key part of this is building mental fitness and she describes this as four key elements:

1) Seeing fit, your outlook on life

2) Thinking fit, a way of thinking about yourself

3) Feeling fit, such as your passion in life

4) Acting fit, your social competence and abilities.

Essentially Jackie says, this fits into our “four bodies:” physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Building mental fitness helps to fortify you for life, to be more comfortable in your own skin. It helps you humanize what at times may seem inhumane. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. It means ‎finding compassion and learning from the past, that translates into finding love and acquiring wisdom,” she says. Your mental fitness will determine your physical fitness and women need to build fortitude for our modern world to be mentally, physically and spiritually fit. Strengthening her mental fitness can help a woman see AND realize her true potential. Our psychological needs matter as much as our physical needs. Truth, honesty, conditional and unconditional love all of these feed into our whole self.

Resilience for women is building that mental fitness. Taking the time to work not just on the physical, but the mental as well. It all goes together and by building your resilience, you will become more of who you really are. A wonderful, smart, and powerful woman who can truly meet her potential.

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