What is Emotional Wellbeing?
Emotional wellness is the understanding and acknowledgment of our feelings. It includes our ability to successfully manage our emotions and navigate challenges. Emotionally well-adjusted people aren’t necessarily happy all the time. However, they are self-aware and able to shift perspectives to cope with difficulties. Those who experience emotional wellness are self-confident and have satisfying relationships.
How to Increase Emotional Wellness
Create A Positive Outlook
Maintaining a positive outlook means approaching life’s challenges with curiosity and hopefulness. It doesn’t mean ignoring uncomfortable emotions or avoiding hard situations. Instead, it means believing in ourselves and our abilities and trying to see the best in others. When faced with a difficult situation, we can choose to make the best of it.
To create a positive outlook, we can begin by being optimistic and accepting. Optimism is the willingness to take risks while being hopeful about the outcome. Acceptance is our ability to recognize that we may not get desirable results, but we can learn from each failure. When we believe we can reach our goals but don’t blame ourselves when we don’t, we become optimistic and accepting.
Resilience also allows us to have a positive outlook. It is our ability to recover after stress or change. Both optimism and acceptance build resilience. When things change, we can examine how we feel and why. This allows us to validate our emotions and learn about ourselves. The more we understand our emotions about change, the more capable become of handle future events.
Building a support network, believing in our problem-solving skills, and feeling proud of ourselves also strengthens resilience.
Mindfulness is the act of observing the present moment. It is common for humans to concentrate on the past or worry about the future. We may focus on feelings of regret or longing, or tell ourselves, “I’ll be happier when (fill in the blank).” But when we do this, we often forget to enjoy the here and now.
Mindfulness allows us to become aware of the present, without judgment or the need to change anything. When we notice things as they are, we find acceptance and joy. Mindfulness also helps regulate stress. When we are not stuck in the past or future, we have less to worry about.
Also, mindfulness helps us become non-reactive to our emotions. We still feel them but learn to observe them first and respond in a helpful way. For example, if someone bumps into us on the street, instead of yelling at them for being careless, we may think “It’s alright, I’m not hurt. They likely didn’t do it on purpose.”
Further, social relationships are a critical part of our emotional wellness. We can take the lesson of non-reactivity and apply it to our relationships. Awareness of our emotions and responses can help us built stronger bonds. Rather than reacting to relational difficulties in a harmful way, we can observe our feelings (and those of others) and respond with kind honesty. Because mindfulness increases gratitude, we often become more thankful for our loved ones.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, like objectively observing our surroundings, body scans, and meditation. Below is an easy mindfulness meditation for beginners:
- Before starting, set a time limit. Beginners should practice for five to 10 minutes.
- Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit. Sit cross-legged on the ground, in a chair with feet firmly on the floor, or kneeling.
- Notice how the body feels. We can rest our hands comfortably in our laps. Notice the weight of the body on the floor or chair. Take note of any sensations in the body.
- Close the eyes.
- Focus on the breath. Follow the breath, in and out. Don’t try to change the breathing pattern. If needed, count along with the breath (*breathe in” …one, *breathe out” …two, and so on. Count to 10, then start back at one).
- Notice distractions. It is normal for the mind to wander during meditation. When it does, we can gently return to focusing on the breath. The mind may wander many times. That’s okay. It is important that we show ourselves kindness and freedom from judgment.
- Slowly open the eyes. When we’re ready, we can slowly open our eyes and take note of how we feel (physically and emotionally), and what we’re thinking. Notice any sounds or smells in the environment.
Get Enough Sleep
Frequent poor sleep may cause negative mental health outcomes. Getting too little sleep reduces our ability to concentrate, form thoughts, and process memories. Establishing healthy bedtime habits, aka sleep hygiene, is essential to emotional wellness. To create a good bedtime routine:
- Exercise. When we exercise moderately to vigorously, our bodies need to recover. Working out increases rest, as our bodies go into repair mode during sleep. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which can otherwise keep us awake at night.
- Establish a bedtime and stick to it. Like other healthy habits, going to sleep at the same time every night (including weekends) helps us build a stable routine.
- Create a comfortable sleep environment. This includes a comfortable bed, soft lighting, clean room, and comfortable room temperature.
- Do not consume caffeine, alcohol, or large meals before bed. This can interrupt the body’s natural sleep cycle.
- Avoid screen time before bed. Scrolling the internet or watching tv keep us mentally stimulated. Also, the blue light from these devices delays the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps us control sleep. Don’t use screens in the sleep environment (or stop using them 30 minutes before bed).
There’s no denying that life can be hard. The good news is increasing our emotional wellness doesn’t require denial. Quite the opposite. When we accept our emotions, learn from difficult situations, embrace the present and create healthy routines, we can thrive.