The importance of exercise on your physical and mental health is extolled by, well, everyone. We’re talking mental health professionals, nutritionists, doctors, your average gym fanatic. At The Latch, we’re pretty big on the importance of exercise too — which is why we tell you when studios are offering a month of free workouts, when Aldi is selling gym equipment, and why we spend time debunking common fitness myths (for men and women!).
We’re also very passionate about mental health. Which is why, when we heard about emotional fitness, we knew we had to pass it on. Emotional fitness is about taking more of a proactive approach to mental health — working on your mind before there’s an ‘issue’.
Alexa Meyer and Emily Anhalt, PsyD, are co-founders of Coa, the world’s first gym for mental health. In their research, they found that there are seven traits of emotional fitness. The traits? Self-awareness; looking inward, confronting any biases and getting in touch with any triggers. Second, empathy; understanding — and tolerating — other people’s emotions.
What follows that? Mindfulness — which, in this definition, is more about becoming comfortable with what’s uncomfortable. Curiosity is fourth in line, but not in its typical form. Anhalt says this is about pursuing growth over defensiveness. Playfulness is the next rung; it involves “meeting people where they are, removing constraints, and being able to get to places you wouldn’t be able to if you shut down the conversation,” Anhalt told mbg.
Rounding off the list is resilience — bouncing back from setbacks and failures, unpacking them along the way — and communication. The last involves putting needs, expectations and boundaries into words, as well as hearing people and speaking what needs to be said.
Speaking to mbg, Anhalt said, “By working on these in an ongoing way, it can help prevent a lot of issues that will later send people to needing mental health support.”
The next step, after familiarising yourself with these seven mental health muscles? Well, you can start anywhere. Go with what is jumping out at you — follow your intuition — or what may be most necessary to your life right now (might we suggest resilience?)
As for what you can do to exercise your mental health muscles? Well, scheduling a worry hour is one suggestion. Yep, give yourself a literal hour a day for worrying. If things pop up during the day, acknowledge them, and then file them away to be worried about at the specific time you’ve set yourself.
Another one? Create a smile file — essentially, get a folder (physical or digital), and any time you receive positive feedback, file it into the folder. Analt describes it as a “compelling database of your value”.