While apps are fulfilling a very real need, in the Bay Area of the US, there’s now the makings of the world’s first “gym for mental health,” named Coa. Coa offers small group classes in emotional fitness staring around $25 USD each. Like many gyms around the world, the pandemic forced Coa to move most of its classes onto an online platform, but when restrictions ease once again, it will open its doors. The good news though, is that such classes are accessible to everyone regardless of geographic location. It might sound bewildering, to unpack mental health in a class of strangers, but that’s exactly what many feel makes Coa such a radical and exciting prospect; it offers group classes that are more affordable than therapy, and allows people to share their story with the camaraderie of others that keeps you coming back. As Men’s Health reports, “What Coa offers is online group therapy (in a slick package) coming from an action-oriented approach.”
The curriculum is rooted in Seven Traits of Emotional Fitness, developed by Emily Anhalt, Psy.D, who advocates for a more proactive approach to mental health. These include self-awareness, empathy, mindfulness, curiosity, play, resilience, and communication. In the classes, clients are instructed to leave their cameras on and come ready to share but the focus is less on rehashing childhood trauma for instance, and more designed to challenge patterns and offer actionable steps to improve confidence, reduce stress and strengthen relationships.
Already, those that have joined Coa have noticed an incredible change in their behaviour. Coa has allowed them to recognise patterns in themselves and potential excuses used for getting defensive. Many believe it’s a powerful step in not only showing someone the tools required to practice better mindfulness and protect their mental health, but perhaps even bridge the gap to a more evidence-based treatment program and meeting a therapist.
Accessible to everyone around the world through its online classes, Coa also hopes to open physical locations in 2022, beginning in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. It's clear that thanks to Coa and others who have started the conversation, the stigma surrounding mental health has shifted and more of us are aware of the necessity to practice such practices. Whether it's Coa or apps like Headspace that you turn to, these platforms provide techniques and strategies to help you throughout lockdown and ensure your health is a priority.
Find out more about Coa here.