It’s easy to know when your physical health needs a little attention, isn’t it? You feel those aches and pains, the sniffles, the breathlessness to name but a few. The second pillar in holistic health is emotional wellness, but how do you know if you are emotionally healthy?
What Is Emotional Wellness?
Emotional wellness relates to our self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth and affects how we think, feel and act.
It can be split into two parts. Firstly, an awareness, understanding and acceptance of your emotions and then secondly, your ability to effectively manage life’s ups and downs.
It does not mean you have to be happy all the time!
We need to experience the whole range of human emotions, but emotional wellness means that you know that you aren’t defined by your emotions.
Our emotions and feelings are simply reactions to our thoughts or to what is happening around us. The reactions that your brain produces are simply the result of your brain searching through its database of memories, beliefs and associations and retrieving what it, rightly or wrongly, thinks is the correct action to take.
Emotions can be knee-jerk reactions, but sometimes they linger and we become stuck. By learning how they are affecting you is one of the most important ways to becoming aware of your emotional wellness.
Dr Steve Peters’ book “The Chimp Paradox” is an amazing book which helps you develop a deeper understanding of your emotions, so you can stop feeding the chimp in your brain and take back control of your emotions and act in your best interest.
What Are The Signs Of Emotional Wellness?
There are several areas of our life that combine to create our sense of emotional wellness.
Like taking care of your physical health, developing your emotional wellness is an on-going process. And like your physical health some days, some aspects of your emotional wellness may need more attention and TLC.
The signs below are very generic and are purely a guide to the most important factors that psychologists have found in people who have a high level of emotional wellness:
How you treat other people in your life
Emotional intelligence is key to your own emotional wellness.
Treating people with kindness and compassion, both personally and professionally is a good indicator of your own emotional wellbeing.
You’re comfortable and happy with who you are
When you’re emotionally healthy you generally feel pretty about yourself and content about life, and you certainly don’t get hung up on all your little quirks, you accept them as part of you.
Being comfortable with yourself doesn’t mean that you’re always happy, or that sometimes things could be better. However, you will generally think and talk positively about your situation instead of dwelling on the negatives.
You’re open-minded and adaptable
By approaching life with a sense of openness means being able to adapt and embrace whatever change life throws at you.
Being self-aware, assessing situations mindfully and listening to the views of others, as well as yourself, all helps you decide on the best course of action.
Recognising and expressing your emotions all help you move forward positively as well as avoiding emotional drama.
Are you grateful?
Emotionally healthy people feel and express gratitude for everything in their lives and all the goodness they experience.
Showing gratitude is a way of appreciating what you have rather than complaining about what you don’t have. For example, you might not have the big house or the flash car, but you have the support of a loving family, friends who care, your health, etc.
Counting your blessings has strong benefits for your emotional health.
You have purpose
Having a sense of meaning in your life, is your reason to get up, get dressed and show up every single day.
By feeling connected to yourself, other people or the wider world helps you appreciate life’s bigger picture, focus on your own values, trust your decisions and gives you the strength to keep going when life gets tough.
You embrace your emotions
From sadness to joy and stress to relaxation, you embrace them all as a natural and normal part of life, without becoming overwhelmed or denying they exist.
Periods of stress are normal and having good emotional health means you have the tools to manage stress as and when it arises.
Likewise you are able to take time out to recharge your batteries, have the confidence to set boundaries and say no without feeling guilty.
Top Tips To Improve Emotional Wellness
Everyone is looking for health, wealth and happiness, right?
Well, I don’t have a magic wand for the wealth part, trust me, if I did I’d have used it already.
Happiness should never be thought of as the destination.
If I do this, then I’ll be happy. When I get that, then I’ll be happy.
Happiness is a choice you make every day. You can choose to be happy, or you can choose not to be happy.
Which just leaves health!
As you know holistic health covers a spectrum of physical, emotional and mental health, and for emotional wellness this means digging deep, asking yourself some difficult questions to get to the root of the problem so you can improve and enjoy emotional wellness.
So, how can you help yourself to get rid of limiting beliefs, manage your emotions and always look on the bright side of life? (Apologies to Monty Python)
The good news is it doesn’t take much. A few tweaks here and there can be all you need to improve your emotional wellness:
The more you can acknowledge your emotions, thoughts and behaviours, the easier it becomes to control them, rather than them controlling you.
It can be difficult at first to understand why you are feeling a certain way, but start paying attention to your emotions … on purpose.
Instead of waiting for a negative emotion to emerge, take stock during the day and ask yourself:
- How am I feeling?
- What am I thinking?
- What am I doing?
You can even try writing the answers to the above questions down in a journal, to see if a pattern emerges.
Taking this time to become aware of your fluctuating thoughts and external factors that can cause the negative emotions only serves to help you understand and manage your emotional health better.
We all have off-days. Fact!
But there’s a difference between having an off-day and constantly maintaining a negative attitude.
A negative attitude only eats away at your internal happiness. And remember, happiness is a choice we make daily.
So how do you get off the negative horse and onto the positive horse?
First of all, notice how often you say negative things like; I can’t, it won’t, it’s not good, etc. Write some of those negative messages down on a piece of paper and neutralise them with a positive truth.
For example; I can’t lose weight. If you think you can’t, then you’ll feel unmotivated and won’t do anything about it.
But, if you shift your thinking to I can try and lose weight, you’ll feel focused and positive and your behaviour will shift into positive behaviour to keep you going.
Make a conscious effort to limit the amount of negative thoughts you have and negative words you say every day about yourself and other people.
Talking positively to yourself can work wonders. Words have the power to wound, but they also have the power to inspire positive feelings and behaviours.
Remember the glass is always half-full.
(Actually, I like to think of it as the glass is always full. Why? Well the glass is half-full of liquid and half-full of air – and when I went to school, a half plus a half ALWAYS equalled one)
Learn to accept criticism
No one likes criticism, or negative feedback, we all tend to take it as a personal attack no matter how it is offered.
But, like it or not we aren’t perfect and we’re not great at everything, no matter how hard we try.
It is by taking on board criticism and using it as an asset to help you grow and develop, that will improve your emotional wellness no end.
That said there are two types of criticism; constructive and unfair.
- Constructive criticismmight sound harsh initially, like Simon Cowell saying you just can’t sing, but it generally comes from a good place. A place of wanting to help you understand your weaknesses so you can improve.
Constructive criticism is like your own emotional personal trainer. Each piece of constructive criticism helps develop your emotional muscles.
Embrace, learn and grow.
- Unfair criticismis just plain mean and generally dished out by people who want to undermine your successes.
But, you can use it to grow even stronger.
It’s a well-known fact that most people who are unkind to others do so because it’s the only way they can feel good themselves. So instead of letting their nastiness get to you, feel sorry for them.
Practice gratitude daily
Research shows that practising gratitude on a daily basis can improve your emotional and mental wellness.
Most of us focus on what we don’t have. So try switching your focus to what you do have. Think of past successes and how they made you feel.
Do you think you can feel that way again? What’s stopping you?
You can practice gratitude in many ways, for example:
- Before you go to sleep at night, write down three things that you were grateful for that day, e.g., grateful that the traffic was moving so I got to my meeting on time.
- Write down 10 things that you are grateful for and keep that list with you in your purse or wallet and make sure you see it, read it and feel it every single day.
Get Selfish Darling’s Gratitude Journal to help you with this if you think its difficult to get going!
Or, you can create your own gratitude rituals.
By practising gratitude on a daily basis you’ll find yourself becoming more aware of the amazing, sometimes little things that happen as you go about your daily life.
Set and keep boundaries
There are many times when you say ‘yes’ to things when you should have said ‘no’.
We’ve all done it. Why? So we don’t feel guilty for letting anyone down.
But, by not establishing boundaries you can compromise your emotional wellness.
It’s up to you to be strong and tell people when they’ve overstepped that mark of what is, or isn’t, acceptable to you.
We are all imperfectly unique. We all have talents and we all have flaws.
We all have feelings and it is okay to feel all of the emotions; the good, the bad and the ugly. It is by embracing and letting yourself feel all those feelings that reduces their impact.
So, it’s okay to feel angry, for example. It’s by fighting and resisting the feeling of anger that focuses on the mind on the anger and makes you feel worse. By simply letting yourself feel angry, you let go.
Being accepting of yourself also means letting go of all that self-judgment and self-doubt. It’s hard, and we’re our own worst critics at times, but if you wouldn’t let a stranger call you stupid or not worthy, why do you talk to yourself like that?
Give yourself a break, accept yourself flaws and all, and just be you. After all, as Dr Seuss so famously said: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”
Improving your emotional wellness is part of the wider holistic health journey, so stride forward with positively and confidently and always remember that opportunities can be found in the most unlikely of places.
Now I’d love to hear from you.
What makes you uniquely you?
Do you try to fit in, or do you stand out? If so, how?
Drop us a comment below.