Understanding and Embracing Emotions
How does one define Emotional Wellness? To understand this dimension of wellness (Read: ‘Demystifying Wellness – What does Wellness Cover‘), let us first attempt to understand what are emotions. According to the book, “Discovering Psychology,” “An emotion is a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response.”
Thus, when my 10 year old daughter baked a cake for me on my birthday (subjective experience), tears rolled out of my eyes (physiological response) and I hugged her (behavioral/expressive response). I ‘felt’ HAPPY! This feeling of ‘happiness’ defined the emotion that came to the fore.
Unfortunately, happiness is not the only emotion that one feels, We also feel sad, fear, disgust, excitement, hatred, love and so many more emotions – a mix of positive and negative emotions – probably all in a single day. Yes, it is possible because emotions are very short-lived and they come as an outcome of some incident or event which works as a trigger and then disappear in no time. The trick is to minimize the impact of negative emotions on our mind by replacing them with positive emotions so that we always end up with a positive behavioral/expressive response. That, in a nutshell, would reflect your robust state of emotional wellness.
Taking Control of Your Emotions
Emotional Wellness implies one’s ability to be aware of one’s feelings, accept them, follow an optimistic approach towards life and enjoy life despite the occasional lows and disappointments.
Very often, when circumstances bring us to a situation which is against our expectation or like, we feel sad and depressed. Instead of accepting the situation as a reality and stand up to the challenge, we go into a state of denial and pretension which are false behavioral responses in such a situation. An emotionally robust person, will not allow the situation bog his/her spirit down. He/She will remain satisfied with what is there in the present moment and try to extract learnings from the adverse situation, identify mistakes and take steps to rectify them.
Route to Emotional Wellness
Optimism is the first step on the route to attaining emotional wellness and this comes with a conscious effort. An optimistic person has the ability to greet all emotions – positive and negative – with a positive attitude which blunts the extreme impacts that these emotions may have on his/her psyche. A few things that you can do to boost your emotional wellness are:
- Stay positive at all times and in all situations. Looking at the negatives reflects pessimism which does not allow us to identify mistakes and learn from them;
- Wear your smile. It is easy as it takes lot fewer muscles to smile than it takes to frown;
- Follow the attitude of gratitude. It will build stronger bonds with people around you;
- Seek or accept help and support whenever needed. Do not hesitate;
- Meditate in order to build a focussed and clear all the unnecessary clutter from your mind;
- Own your mistakes and take them as learning experiences;
- Forgive yourself and others for any wrong doings. Replace all negative emotions with the positive ones.
Signs of Emotional Wellness
It would be a good idea to know answers to some of the questions like – Am I emotionally healthy? How are my problems affecting my behavior in public? How am I doing in life? A visit to a psychiatrist can give you some answers. However, a bit of introspection to look out for some signs in your demeanour can give you an indication of your emotional wellness. Look out for these signs:
- Do you treat others well? – Treating others with compassion and kindness is a hallmark of good emotional health. Known as prosociality in the world of psychology, it means that you identify others’ needs and feelings and are willing to extend a helping hand to other in need.
- Do you like who you are? – If you are an emotionally healthy person you will not only be aware of your strengths but also know your imperfections, peculiarities and oddities and will be fine with what and how you are. You will also be congruent, i.e. what you show to the outside world is reflective of what you are from inside. You do not pretend to be what you are not.
- Are you flexible? – Life often throws at us most unexpected situations for which we may not be prepared. Do you have the flexibility to alter your routine approach to life according to the changed situation? You are in a sound emotional health if you are able to assess a situation, the surroundings, your own emotions and others’ reactions and use these factors to decide what the best course of action is. You know when to pursue a matter and when to let go, which situation calls for controlled aggression and where you need to be subtle.
- Do you have the attitude of gratitude? – A sense of appreciation for others’ acts that have impacted you in your hour of need, an expression of gratitude, goes a long way in building very strong bonds with people around you, which ultimately becomes your support system. Thanking and appreciating others indicates to them the value they hold in your life.
- Are you leading a purposeful life? – A purposeful life would be where you have a passion and you do whatever you can to follow your passion. Do you volunteer for neighnourhood community programs? Are you squeezing a few hours a week from your busy schedule and educating children of families which cannot afford formal school education? Do you run a marathon to spread public awareness about a concern? If you have a mission and you follow that diligently, it indicates your emotional well-being.
- Do you value experiences more than possessions? – Emotionally healthy people spend time and money to gather experiences rather than spend on material things like clothes, gadgets, cars, etc. A game of scrabble with your children would be more appreciated by them for a longer time than you getting them a box of chocolates every time you go out shopping.
- Do you embrace your emotions? – As mentioned earlier in the post, a good parameter of your emotional wellness is how you accept your emotions and not try to pretend they don’t exist. As a human, you are bound to experience various emotions throughout the life. Understanding, accepting and responding positively to all emotions without getting overwhelmed is the sign of an emotionally mature person.
Thus, friends, emotions – positive and negative – are part of our existence. Keeping control over your thoughts without being overwhelmed is the key to keeping this wellness dimension in a good shape and move towards attaining total wellness.