What Is Emotional Health?
Are You Emotionally Fit?
If you ask someone about their health, they’ll more than likely talk about recent illness or surgeries. They may also mention what they’re eating (or not eating) and some sort of physical fitness regimen they’ve undertaken. But most people don’t consider their emotional wellness or emotional health. However, research is showing how important emotional well-being is to our overall health.
What is emotional health and how can it be improved? The definition of emotional wellness is the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times, which is especially important with seniors. Because as we age, we may have to deal with limited mobility, a reduced social circle and a lack of purpose, which can cause depression in seniors. Scientists funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) are finding evidence that emotional well-being can be improved by developing certain skills.
How to Improve Your Emotional Well-Being
Here are 6 strategies for improving your emotional health from the NIH.
Develop a more positive mindset
Experts say people who are emotionally well have fewer negative emotions and a quality called resilience – the ability to bounce back from difficulties. Another trait of emotional wellness is being able to hold onto positive emotions longer and appreciate the good times.
To be more positive:
- Remember your good deeds. Give yourself credit for the good things you do for others each day.
- Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from what went wrong, but don’t dwell on it.
- Spend more time with your friends. Surround yourself with positive, healthy people.
- Explore your beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life. Think about how to guide your life by the principles that are important to you.
- Develop healthy physical habits. Healthy eating, physical activity, and regular sleep can improve your physical and mental health.
Reduce your stress
Everyone feels stress. It can give you a rush of energy when it’s needed most, but if stress lasts a long time it can become harmful (a condition known as chronic stress). Learning healthy ways to cope with stress can also boost your resilience.
To help manage your stress:
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Just 30 minutes a day of walking can boost mood and reduce stress.
- Build a social support network.
- Set priorities. Decide what must get done and what can wait. Say no to new tasks if they are putting you into overload.
- Think positive. At the end of the day, note what you’ve accomplished, not what you’ve failed to do.
- Try mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or tai chi to help you relax.
- If you feel unable to cope, have suicidal thoughts, or use drugs or alcohol to relax, talk to a mental health professional.
Get quality sleep
Sleep is vital to your well-being and affects both mental and physical health. Getting a good night’s rest can help you think more clearly, have quicker reflexes and focus better.
For better quality sleep:
- Go to bed the same time each night and get up the same time each morning.
- Sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment.
- Exercise daily (but not right before bedtime).
- Limit the use of electronics before bed.
- Relax before bedtime. A warm bath or reading might help.
- Avoid alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine late in the day.
- Avoid nicotine.
- Consult a health care professional if you have ongoing sleep problems.
Coping with loss
There’s no right or wrong way to mourn. Although the death of a loved one can feel overwhelming, you have a better chance of making it through the grieving process with the support of family and friends.
To help cope with loss:
- Take care of yourself – eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Avoid bad habits that can put your health at risk like smoking or drinking alcohol.
- Talk to caring friends. Let others know when you want to talk.
- Find a grief support group. It might help to talk with others who are also grieving.
- Don’t make major changes right away. Wait a while before making big decisions like moving or changing jobs.
- Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble with everyday activities.
- Consider additional support. Sometimes short-term talk therapy can help.
- Be patient. Mourning takes time. It’s common to have roller-coaster emotions for a while.
Maintain strong social connections
Scientists are finding that our links to others can have powerful effects on our health — both emotionally and physically. New technologies (like Skype) can help you stay connected, regardless of distance.
To build healthy support systems:
- Get active and share good habits with family and friends.
- If you’re a family caregiver, ask for help from others.
- Join a group focused on your favorite hobby, such as reading, hiking, or painting.
- Learn something new by taking a class.
- Volunteer for things you care about in your community, like a community garden, school, library, or place of worship.
- Travel to different places and meet new people.
- Take a look at local senior centers and retirement communities to see whether they have any upcoming events, parties, or club meetings that interest you.
This ancient practice of mindfulness is about being completely aware of all that’s going on inside and all that’s happening around you.
To be more mindful:
- Take some deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose to a count of 4, hold for 1 second and then exhale through the mouth to a count of 5. Repeat often.
- Enjoy a stroll. As you walk, notice your breath and the sights and sounds around you. As thoughts and worries enter your mind, note them but then return to the present.
- Practice mindful eating. Be aware of taste, textures, and flavors in each bite, and listen to your body when you are hungry and full.
- Find mindfulness resources in your local community, including yoga and meditation classes, mindfulness-based stress reduction programs, and books.
Some other ways to improve your emotional wellness include:
- Music and art therapy: Making art can have a healing effect by allowing you to rid yourself of negative feelings and reduce your stress level. Listening to music can also help you tap into your emotions and give them an outlet.
- Focus: Make it a habit to do one thing at a time. For example, when spending time with friends, don’t bring any distractions along, and try not to look at your cell phone so you’re present in the moment.
- Goal setting: Setting even simple goals for yourself can help improve your overall mental well-being and confidence.
- Journaling: After a bad day, consider writing your feelings down and countering it with a positive, motivating thought for a better tomorrow.
Hopefully this has helped you answer the question of what is emotional health as well as discover ways to improve your emotional wellness.
At Laurel Circle, our wellness philosophy includes emotional health as well as physical, social, intellectual, vocational, environmental, spiritual and health services. To learn more about our 8 Dimensions of Wellness call us at 908-595-65007.