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Clean up Your Mehs!

Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

– Howard Thurman, educator, theologian and author


Key: The draining emotional experiences of life are under our control.

Living it: Small positive changes to our schedule and thinking will restore and sustain our emotional energy.

Clinical Concept: Emotional self-maintenance via lifestyle adjustment and applied Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.


That guy above is a Meh. He was made famous in The Emoji Movie and—no spoiler here—he learned that it’s hard to be a Meh.

We are feeling beings, not Mehs, though we all have things in our lives that we are meh about. Being meh has become so common and accepted that my spellchecker doesn’t even react to it as I type. But being meh is a waste, even a drain, on our most precious resource; our emotions.

“What we think of as emotion is the experience of energy moving through the body,” according to doctors Hilary Stokes and Kim Ward. “The Latin derivative for the word emotion, ‘emotere’, literally means energy in motion” (2012). Feeling that energy as happy, sad or mad is has been determined by our thoughts on the situation over time.

That energy is quite literally fuel. Mira Kirshenbaum, psychotherapist and bestselling author’s research involving, “a wide range of energy experts such as endocrinologists, nutritionists and sports medicine specialists” found that “physical energy can supply, at most, 30 percent of one’s total energy. The remaining 70 percent of the energy needed must come from emotional energy.” Kirshenbaum describes this energy as “an aliveness of the mind, a happiness of the heart, and a spirit filled with hope.”

At best Meh’s give us no emotional energy, but usually they suck that energy right out of us. This increases stress, general down feelings and if continued over time can lead to depressive symptoms. “Everything worth doing that’s difficult gets lost without it” Kirshenbaum said, “Dreams die when we lack the emotional energy to hang in there in the face of all the obstacles” (O’Connor, 2015).


A Life with Less Mehs


I’m supposed to be a Meh, you know, like, ‘Meh, who cares,’ but my problem is I have more than one emotion. I have so much more.

– Gene the Meh,
The Emoji Movie

We can all identify with Gene. The Emoji Movie is no Inside Out, but it’s fun and it makes a solid point. We need to feel and share a wide array of emotions to find fulfillment, and we need those emotional moments to fulfill us. We will always have mehs, the trick is to clean up our mehs so that we have as little as possible.

Kirshenbaum suggest that we choose “experiences both large and small that include beauty, fun and companionship” while “learning how to say ‘no’ without out feeling guilty” to things that we feel meh about.

I agree that will cut down on the mehs of life. But it’s sometimes life is just meh-sy.

Okay, I admit it. I overused the pun.

Still, it’s true. Life can be bland, boring and draining. Do we just accept that? No way! We also don’t quit our jobs, our spouses or anything else that is vital to joyful living, even though it’s draining or stressful in its present experience. Remember, our interpretation plays a role in our emotional energy expression. If we change our perspective we can potentially turn a meh into a positive!

The key to that was forged way back in 1955 by pioneer Dr. Albert Ellis. It’s called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. His institute describes REBT as “an action-oriented approach to managing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disturbances…with an emphasis on the present” that “helps individuals to develop a philosophy and approach to living that can increase their effectiveness and satisfaction…living successfully with others…and in enhancing their own emotional health and personal welfare” (AEI, 2014).

I will not be going deeply into REBT here because it is very robust. I encourage you to seek out an experienced counselor or REBT group facilitator, if you’re interested. Incidentally, I am one, so feel free to drop me a line. I also have one of Ellis’s REBT hand out cards that used to be in the waiting room of his institute back in the Sixties. It was a gift from a dear friend and colleague. The key to REBT is right at the top in all caps “IDEAS TO HELP YOU FUNCTION EFFECTIVELY.” All caps didn’t mean yelling in the Sixties.

REBT is about embracing less rigid ideas about life to develop a personal philosophy that is both rational and restorative. REBT uses the simple framework of “Activating Event + My Belief System = My Response.” Change the belief and you change the emotional response. It is my belief that doing so will decrease the amount of Meh in our lives by helping us see them differently.

Some examples:

Meh: “My job is so boring!”
Less Meh: “There are parts of my job that aren’t exciting, but these parts do excite me…”

Meh: “That family picnic will be so exhausting. Ugh, those people.”
Less Meh: “Some of my relatives have meh views, but people’s views don’t need to affect my enjoyment of a beautiful day.”

Meh: “We used to be so in love. Now it’s all TV and the kids.”
Less Meh: “We’ve put a lot of energy in building a life together and it’s sensible to become tired. If we need to wake it up, we can do that together, too.”

Easy, right? Well, it actually does take effort. But it’s worth it. I truly believe that with a personal blend of the Kirshenbaum approach to actively weed out meh experiences in favor of high energy ones and REBT to build less meh thinking patterns we can clean up our mehs and make our life a meh-sterpiece!

…okay, that was the last meh pun. Promise.




Albert Ellis Institute (2014) Albertellis.org. Retrieved from: http://albertellis.org/rebt-cbt-therapy/

O’Connor, M. (2015) The Importance of Emotional Energy. Huffington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/ornish-living/the-importance-of-emotion_b_8394718.html

Stokes, H. and Ward, K (2012) Emotions Are Energy. Retrieved From: http://www.authenticityassociates.com/emotions-are-energy/

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