How to Maintain Emotional Fitness
Are you feeling a little lighter? Did you attempt to make a choice from your authentic voice by looking for that gut feeling and trusting it, despite “logical” arguments suggesting otherwise?
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Listen, I want to come clean. I do not wake up and do a 90-minute meditation and feel a sense of bliss throughout my day. I don’t do yoga 7 days a week or take long walks in nature either.
I lose it some days. I get angry, feel sad, experience anxiety, dread, and fear. I am human. I also eat fats, sugars, and salts.
Once I shed the emotional weight that had built up over years, I was surprised that fear and all its friends were still around. I had an image of Zen-like joy and bliss washing over me like a breeze in spring.
Sorry. It did not happen.
Our bodies do not stay fit without exercise and our emotional world does not stay intact without attention either.
Three steps to maintaining emotional fitness:
- Get used to fear.
- Get clear on “gut” beliefs.
- Set fitness goals.
Fear, fats, salts and sugars are here to stay. Fear is not always bad. There is healthy fear. For example, if you walk down an isolated street and hear someone approaching, it is good to wonder if you are safe.
Fats, salts and sugars are not always bad either. We need some levels of them to survive.
The problem is how to manage these things when they are everywhere.
I had to learn to experience fear and not take action or avoid action because of fear. Learning to distinguish between legitimate fear and the proverbial bear in the bush is the key.
I had to learn to experience a craving towards foods I wanted and not take action.
I make choices every day when faced with endless amounts of foods that are not good for me in excess. To stay in shape, I have to look at the chocolate croissant in this café the whole time I am writing this and not buy it.
I also make choices every day when faced with endless fears that are not good for me. To stay in emotional shape, I have to look at this blog that I am sending out any moment and not let fear dissuade me from finishing it and pressing send.
Get clear on “gut” beliefs.
What does that mean?
Gut beliefs are your beliefs. The clearer you can get on your beliefs outside of the influence of external influences, the easier emotional fitness becomes.
Why do I have to do this?
The world teaches us what we should eat and what we should not. Sadly, our culture does not do as much to help navigate our unhealthy emotional habits.
Defining your beliefs without influence is difficult, but the only way to emotional fitness and a happier life.
Take a few minutes to write down your beliefs. Once you have them clear, ask yourself if you are acting in line with those beliefs.
What are some of my beliefs?
- Anger is toxic
- Taking things personally and making assumptions are a waste of time.
- Complaining should be limited to 5 minutes.
- Gossip is a bad idea
- My son needs love. Everyone needs love.
- I cannot control anyone. Attempting to do so will have the opposite effect.
- Don’t compare to others. They probably are not as happy as I think, despite what Facebook leads us to believe. If they are, they are acting in accordance with their personal beliefs and it won’t work for you.
- We are all unique. Do you. I am doing me. If you don’t like it, I cannot help that because it is all I have.
- Love, empathy, compassion, joy and gratitude never get old and never get me into trouble.
Do you love your children, but your behavior towards them is not what you would like? Are you married or in a relationship? Are you happy with how you behave towards your loved one? Is there a project or an area of your life that is not going well and you want better results?
Take yourself out of the conversation and ask how you would feel if you saw the exact same behavior in someone else?
What if someone else talked to your child or any other loved one the exact same way? Really imagine it.
If you are being honest, you know when you are making a poor choice.
Set fitness goals
The rest is a decision about how fit you want to be. Resisting the chocolate pastry is hard, but I ate way too much last night at Passover dinner. I have a certain level of physical fitness that I want and the pastry does not fit in with that goal.
What is your emotional fitness goal?
I set an expectation that was attainable and I was happy with the outcome. I do as much as I can. Some days it is less that I would want, but I try to work on it.
Emotional shape is not like a broken bone that heals. This is not something that goes away. This is something that requires maintenance.
How do you set up an emotional workout goal?
Begin with asking what kind of emotional shape you want to attain. We all set different goals. Some are driven towards the shape of an Olympic athlete while others want to avoid getting sick from lifestyle choices.
I am not an Olympic athlete and I do not meditate 3 hours a day.
- I mainly eat healthy foods and when I don’t I eat better the next day.
- I mainly distinguish healthy fear from unhealthy and when I don’t I do better the next day.
- I mainly behave in accordance with my beliefs and when I don’t I do better the next day.
Most days I attain my goals. When I eat a big bite of fear I notice and move forward quickly. When I get int a negative emotional space, I find compassion or gratitude and apologize if I have behaved badly.
As I got in better emotional shape, my daily indulgences in negative emotional states became less frequent and shorter lived.
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