Emotional Fitness – The Ability to Adapt Emotionally to Any Situation

Siim Land

There are many types of adaptations and faculties we develop in response to the situations we get exposed to – some of which is emotional fitness. 

Defining Fitness

Fitness is the ability to fit into a given situation – to adapt and to be able to act. It involves being able to take action under the specific conditions you’re currently exposed to. Fitness is context dependent, which means that if you’re extremely good in one scenario then you might not be so in another.

The concept of fitness doesn’t just apply to exercise. It can be employed in any other aspect of life as well – financial fitness, linguistic fitness, intellectual fitness and emotional fitness.

Emotional fitness is the ability to adapt to any circumstance emotionally. It means that you’re the one who’s controlling their own emotions not the other way around.

Do You Own Your Own Emotions

Realize this: Your emotions aren’t truthful nor a part of who you really are. You see, our brain is divided into 3 regions: the basal ganglia (crocodile brain), the limbic system (monkey mind) and the neocortex (the human brain). All of them have different tasks and most emotions are derived from either the reptilian or chimp region, which are concerned mainly with our survival.

The Triune Brain Emotional Fitness
The Triune Brain Emotional Fitness

Emotions are nothing but the by-products of our thinking in response to stimuli. They rise up randomly due to causality and when you spend even just a little bit of time thinking about them then you’ll see that they’re completely groundless – just nonsensical noise.

Causality - Emotional Fitness
Causality – Emotional Fitness

From the perspective of evolution, emotions are supposed to be mechanisms that control our behavior. They will either motivate us to repeat positive actions or avoid negative ones – to move away from pain towards pleasure. Everything we experience causes a certain emotional response depending on how we perceive the situation at hand. For instance, if someone cuts in front of you in traffic, then whether you’re going to scream at them or not depends on your level of emotional fitness.

Emotional Fitness Definition

Emotional fitness is a faculty of mind that enables you to become more aware of your emotions and not be overtaken by any feelings just because you can’t control your reaction. (Click to Tweet)

Don’t be misled by the notion of control. It’s not about being extremely strict or grasping onto it. Instead, the idea is that you can choose how you’re going to feel in any given situation and not be hindered by emotionally difficult situations just because you lack the fitness, thus achieving freedom from them completely.

Emotional fitness derives from heightened levels of consciousness. In fact, the way you’re going to react in any situation depends on your current level of awareness. It stems from increased activity at the prefrontal cortex – the region that governs abstract thinking, language, rationality and other higher executive functioning.

If your human brain is being hijacked by a chimp, then you’ll most definitely succumb to your irrational thinking patterns and will thus create afflictive emotions. If it’s the crocodile, then you’ll become more aggressive, fearful and get paralyzed by your anxiety.

Emotional Fitness Training

To develop emotional fitness you need to have discipline, willpower, and mindfulness. Those three characteristics or faculties are skills in of themselves and are derived from the prefrontal cortex.

Training emotional fitness involves you being able to regulate your own thoughts and emotions and then deliberately controlling them. Not as a means of restriction but as a way of liberation.

To do so, you have to:

  • First, notice yourself. To become more aware, you have to be able to take a step back from whatever you’re currently exposed to. This can be difficult because the monkey mind can actually override any rational thought. If, however, you manage to take a step back in the situation, see yourself from an outside perspective and take a few deep breaths, then you’ll regain conscious control. This can be difficult to do in the heat of the moment. Herein can practices of mindfulness, such as meditation, help you be habitually more aware in the present.
  • Distance yourself from the situation for a moment. You shouldn’t follow your immediate urges because most likely they’re if not false then harmful still. The key is to increase the time between the stimulus you’ve received and the reaction you’ll be creating. This way the thought will pass through the guarding gaze of the crocodile-chimp hegemony and reaches the human brain. You then have enough time to process the information and consequently create a desired response.
  • Choose how you’re going to feel. Ask yourself the questions: How am I feeling right now? What’s causing this feeling? Is it rational and justified? Am I being controlled by my habitual reactions? Do I want to feel this way? What would be the most beneficial emotional response to this situation? If your current emotions aren’t helping you in any way then make a decision of changing them. If you want to be feeling the way you do, then there is no reason to be changing it either.
  • Empower this new feeling. After having regained conscious control and decided what your reaction is going to be, start giving this new emotion more and more strength. At the same time decrease the domain of negative thoughts over you. Focus solely on how you want to feel and really embrace it, embody it and rejoice in it.

Maintaining a Positive Attitude

The key notion and purpose of emotional fitness is to not be governed by your afflictive thoughts and negativity but instead, have the possibility to choose the way you want to feel at any given moment. This enables you to maintain a positive attitude towards life and in everything else you do as well.

Being emotionally fit means that you can regulate wherein you lie on the emotional spectrum – how excited you feel, what is your current state of mind and how happy you feel in the present moment. It takes a lot of discipline to maintain a positive mindset because our subconscious mind grasps onto negative emotions quite easily.

Emotional fitness has the potential to always make you feel vibrant and truly alive because you can CHOOSE how to feel at any given moment. Change can happen at an instant if you decide to do so. What’s even better, as you’re emanating positive vibrations, you begin to have a positive effect on those around you as well. Positivity, like negativity, is infectious and if you possess the ability to bring more joy into your own life, then why not bestow it onto others as well.

What is Your Default State?

Throughout the day we experience a whole spectrum of emotions. Realize that the emotions you feel most often become your default state. I will repeat that again: the emotions you feel most often become your default state. They will take control and begin to run the show, figuring it’s what you want.

What it will also tell you is that you can voluntarily regulate it and choose which state you’re going to be in on a daily basis. It begins with the choices you make moment-by-moment and what emotions you choose to focus on.

That’s why I’m always trying to be mindful of what thoughts and emotions I’m currently experiencing. Whenever I feel even just a little bit of apathy, lack of motivation or anything the like creep up on me, I immediately shift to focusing on my vision and what my purpose is. You have to zap out of it right away because your thoughts and emotions can create your reality.

Emotional Fitness Activities

There are also other ways you have to condition emotional fitness so that you could be able to manage emotionally difficult situations that are going to happen in the future in advance.

This means that you have to pre-emptively be prepared for the worst case scenario before it has even managed to occur. If it does, then you’re already prepared for it and will not merely cope with it but can thrive despite of it.

To condition yourself for high levels of emotional fitness you have to periodically expose yourself to the following situations.

  • Stressful situations. Everything that includes increased mental and physical strenuous effort – events that cause slight arousal and make you pick up your feet to succeed. Public speaking, facing uncertain events, challenging situations, taking any kind of action with an unpredictable outcome, putting in hard work, experiencing time stress and having to be quick about your business. The idea is to control your response and not be overtaken by anxiety. This will teach you how to handle sh#t hits the fan worst case scenarios and emerge as a victor from them.
  • Emotional difficulties. Everything that’s emotionally hard to bear. Conflicting relationships, experiencing loneliness, feeling sad. This teaches self-sufficiency, but at the same time develops compassion, kindness, and vulnerability. You don’t want to close yourself off but should open up to the pain and accept it for what it is. The greatest strength lies not in resisting forcefully but yielding and being vulnerable.
  • Self-acceptance. This deserves a category of its own because the worst relationships most people have is with themselves. They can’t give themselves slack and can’t stand the person in the mirror. The reason is that they’re simply disconnected from their intuitive self and feel misery because of having to put on an act. Emotional fitness regarding yourself means that you know who you are, accept it and can thus liberate yourself from the bondage of your ego. Self-enquiry, deep contemplation and meditation are great tools for this. Don’t run away from your shadow but confront it and come to terms with it.
  • Uncomfortable situations. Every living organism is hardwired to move away from pain towards pleasure. Being uncomfortable is incredibly uncomfortable and causes immense amounts of anxiety. But how much discomfort you can handle is purely subjective and depends on how well conditioned you are to it. One of the greatest skills to have in life is to be able to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Come hell or high water – you will always thrive. It all depends on your mindset and how you choose to see the situation. Great exercises for this are taking cold showers in the morning, cold water immersions, resistance training and focusing hard on a subject.

The Mindset for Emotional Fitness

Here are the mental characteristics and traits that accompany higher levels of emotional fitness.

  • It’s the most antifragile mental operating system. In a nutshell, you seek to understand nature for what it truly is and behave wisely in accordance with that knowledge. Stoics realize that the world is an unpredictable place with people and events that are going to cause dread. The axiom: “You can’t control what happens to you but only your reaction to it,” is a perfect example of such wisdom.
  • Anti-positive thinking. Positivity is always more useful and productive than negativity. Even if the situation couldn’t get any worse, you would still be better off with an optimistic mindset because your perception creates your reality. At the same time, it has some downsides that can leave you vulnerable for future events. If you were to think ONLY positively, you would prevent yourself from realizing that sh¤% will hit the fan events are an inevitable fact.
    • Anti-positive thinking is about envisioning what the worst case scenario would look like. Instead of wanting it to happen, simply see everything going the opposite to your way and come up with possible solutions – it’s mental rehearsal that prepares you for the future.
  • Negative visualization. Another stoic technique that involves seeing with your mind’s eye how you’re going to fail the thing you set out to do. See yourself face planting on the floor, figuratively speaking. This way you’re reminding to yourself that failure is going to happen some day and you’re going to have to face extreme challenges. Having visualized it beforehand, you already have some reference experience and aren’t that influenced by it.

Become Fit for Life

This is the idea behind the concept of emotional fitness – you’re capable of handling any situation emotionally and can adapt to whatever changes in your sentimental landscape.

It’s important to develop fitness not only physically but also in every other area of your life as well. As much as we would like the world to remain the same, we can’t run away from the inevitable pursuit of progress and evolution.

The changing and the changeless are the 2 sides of the same coin and they’re in constant motion. Movement is the essence of life and in order to survive, you have to be able to adapt whatever may come to you.

In order to not merely cope but to also thrive in difficult situations, challenges, and novelty, you would want to stay in contact with my blog. I write articles about being antifragile and benefiting from chaos. Check out my YouTube channel as well for videos about Body Mind Empowerment. Finally, if you haven’t already, join the Body Mind Agoge to receive a free e-book that will teach you fitness for life and much more.

Stay well, Stay Fit.