Emotional and mental fitness make everything else possible. This does not mean that when we achieve physical fitness, we necessarily reach emotional fitness; and, needless to say, we certainly can have forms of emotional fitness and lack physical fitness. Much like life, we must view fitness in all its forms along a continuum, which varies in different domains of life: family, work, relationships, body, spirituality, etc.
Now, here's the beauty of emotional/mental fitness and the case for pursuing it passionately: When we become crazy in love with cultivating qualities of mind, spirit, and character, we are happier, people around us are happier (and inspired), and life is deeply meaningful -with or without the perfect body, partner, job, degrees, material things.
Fortunately, the field of positive psychology has identified character traits (virtues) and strengths, which merit "the good life." The Values in Action classification system (also noted in my Benjamin Franklin post) offers the following virtues agreed upon by positive psychology theorists, philosophers and theologians across historical periods and world cultures: 1) wisdom and knowledge, 2) courage, 3) humanity and love, 4) justice 5) temperance, 6) transcendence (If you would like to take a survey to determine your VIA character strengths, please check out www.authentichappiness.org)
To build our emotional/mental wellness muscles, we must first take an honest look at our lives. We can do this on our own and/or sometimes a therapist, friend, or loved one will offer us insights in a gentle way to promote a deeply honest accounting of where we are, where we hope to be, and where we go from here. As we ask ourselves questions such as, how well did I: love today? stand up for truth? Find and see beauty in the natural elements, in myself, my colleagues, family, friends, the "outsider"? Did I demonstrate humility? Forgiveness? Was I able to laugh today? Have self-control? Integrity? Gratitude? Forgiveness? Fairness, (name the qualities important to you), we can more greatly become attuned to our strengths, areas of challenge and set emotional fitness goals, which can be measured much life physical fitness goals. We can note our results, the energy we create when we enter a room, sit with others, in their joys, doubts, and sorrows.
Once we set our goals, it is helpful to be accountable to ourselves, another person, God or a metaphysical entity (if so inclined), by engaging in daily habits to promote the building of the emotional wellness muscles. Examples include scheduling daily acts of kindness, keeping a gratitude journal/expressing gratitude, scheduling reading something outside our professional fields, standing up to a racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-religious, anti-atheist remark, for example. Much like physical fitness, emotional wellness muscles can be noticed by those around you, even if nothing is said because irrespective of our backgrounds, goodness is good. We know it when we see it, and want more of it.
Next, we are always growing, and once we have "mastered" an area, we must not become complacent: Even though we may exhibit qualities of mastery (the trait becoming second nature), we must continue to see ourselves with a "beginner's mind," and a student's heart, filled with both curiosity and receptivity to learning with each and every encounter. Practicing mindfulness meditation, relaxation techniques, and visualization will promote a regulation of emotions, an easing of tension, clarity of vision, and an experience of the emotional heart muscle...This is the inner self, which is cradled in safety, a sense of hope, and certitude that no matter what might appear to be happening in our outer world, the inner world, the inner self is where it's at. When we touch this, we are more easily able to see the wholeness of others, even if their emotional muscles have yet to be flexed or they have failed to attend practice.
To building our emotional muscles with joy, focus, passion, humility and feelings of crazy love invigoration!