THE BLOG
11/12/2014 03:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How to Get Emotionally Fit

Do you have a pretty great life, yet frequently find yourself feeling unfulfilled, stressed out, anxious or depressed?

Most of us believe we should have daily rituals to stay physically healthy: exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep. But when it comes to our emotional health, we often don't have a similar daily routine for "staying fit."

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In her new book Emotional Obesity, Laura Coe argues that our culture teaches us from a young age to "get over" our feelings. The result is that we end up carrying their excess weight around with us throughout our lives. The messages these suppressed emotions create--of not being good enough, not worthy, undeserving--become the dominant voices that we hear. This is what she calls "emotional obesity."

The book suggests that we commit ourselves to a program of emotional fitness, just as we commit ourselves to a physical fitness routine. This entails first setting a goal of becoming aware of our feelings, and then subscribing to daily rituals that will benefit our emotional health. We can thus free ourselves from the destructive and unresolved feelings that have undermined our authentic selves, and tap into the place where our true passions and desires reside.

Six years ago, Laura says, she "had everything most people would associate with success:" a multi-million dollar business she had built over the course of 11 years and sold to a Fortune 500 company, a loving partner and a beautiful three-year-old child. She was even teaching yoga classes on the side.

Everything looked perfect from the outside, but underneath, something wasn't right. Laura found herself chronically stressed. She soon realized that all of her so-called "successes" were coming not from her own ideas of how to live a great life, but rather from what she had learned she "should" want in life. "I had lost my true self somewhere deep inside. I had become emotionally obese," she explained.

Laura, who had studied philosophy for 20 years, developed a daily emotional workout routine including "nutritional thoughts" and other tools, in order to peel back the layers, shed the emotional weight, and learn to be happy. Although she says, "I'm not a therapist or a guru," Laura has figured out some simple steps to achieving greater happiness. Over the last couple of years, she has shared these tools with dozens of life coaching clients who are reporting massive changes and healthier lives. This is what inspired her to write her first book, Emotional Obesity.

"I had layers upon layers of assumptions, fears, and negative thoughts that had piled on over the years like 'emotional fat.' In order to lose them, I had to learn to shed the 'emotional weight.' So I created a framework that helped me get 'emotionally fit,'" she told me.

Laura's dream is that people take emotional fitness as seriously as they take physical fitness. In order to get started, she suggests that you identify an area of your life that is not working. Then get rid of your "junk food thoughts." We all have cravings for different junk foods--donuts, a bag of potato chips--things we know we shouldn't eat. Similarly, we all have cravings for certain negative thoughts about ourselves. For example, you might constantly tell yourself, "I do not deserve better" or "I am not capable enough."

Laura recommends, "When you consider making a change in your life, notice the first sentences you think of that undermine your goal. What are the specific sentences you say that support the belief that you are not enough?" Replace them with a "nutritional thought"--something that is supportive of your goals. For example, Laura says, "I believed I could not write a book without a Ph.D. I replaced that junk food thought with a new nutritional thought: Thousands of people write books without a Ph.D. In doing so, I freed myself to do what I truly desired."

Your junk food thoughts are not real. They are the roots of your suffering. However, we tend to think that there are no other options. "As soon as you believe you can see the world differently, you can make any change you desire," Laura counsels.

Photo credit: OG Photography