Several weeks back I was listening to a podcast, as I normally do on my walks with Grover, and stumbled upon an interview with Khe Hy, aka “the Oprah for millennials.”

I was struck by some of his ideas, in particular his mention of the term emotional couch potato.

It seems common knowledge that being a physical couch potato is not good for our health. Our bodies are meant to move, and I’m sure you recognize just how crappy you feel after binge watching Netflix all day (I know I do).

But the idea of being an emotional couch potato, though just as detrimental to our health and well-being, is not nearly as well recognized, especially in Western culture where managing emotional health is often shoved to the back burner.

Many of us are simply not taught how to properly manage our emotions. And so we turn to strategies like emotional eating, escaping reality by zoning out in front of the t.v., medicating with pharmaceuticals, or even the stereotypical abuse of drugs or sex.

Emotional fitness so to speak is important though. Not only does it free us from our dependence on the aforementioned vices, but it also allows us to form a better relationship with with ourselves.

When I am in touch with my emotions, I gain a better understanding of what I want and need in this life, what I am capable of, and what I deserve. I am able to pursue relationships and experiences that help me become the best version of myself, and navigate difficult experiences that add to my own personal growth. And when I am in this state of growth and working towards the best version of myself, I am more capable and likely to help others to do the same.

In essence, when we stop being emotional couch potatoes, we are able to wake up and start making the world a better place.

So how do we stop being emotional couch potatoes? Start with the five (or heck, even just one of the five) tips below:

Journal. Journaling is a great way to take note of and work through thoughts and emotions. Start by setting aside just 5-10 minutes each morning or evening to write about your current emotions, attitudes, experiences, and beliefs. Challenge yourself to be completely open and honest in your journaling, and to refrain from self-judgement and criticism.

Meditate. Meditating allows us to bring our awareness to the present moment, and to tune in to our current emotions. Start a simple meditation practice by setting aside a few minutes each day to close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath. Acknowledge thoughts and feelings that come up, but practice bringing your awareness always back to your breath.

Disconnect from technology. Like meditation, disconnecting from technology allows us to become less distracted and more connected to our own experiences, perceptions, and feelings. Try setting aside a bit of time each day where technology is off limits, and/or experiment with a digital detox one weekend each month.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Feeling emotional pain – anxiety, frustration, sadness, grief, etc. – is never comfortable. That’s why so many of us opt to ignore it and cover it up! But we never truly learn and grow from our experiences and emotions if we do not allow ourselves to fully feel and process them.

Give yourself permission to lean in to your emotions. So often we are ashamed or embarrassed by our emotions, or feel that perhaps we *should* feel differently. When we accept that not only are we emotional creatures, but that these emotions serve a purpose, we can then start to work with our emotions rather than against them.

Want to more deeply explore your emotions? Check out Ekman’s Atlas of Emotions.

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