Your emotional health should be a priority!
People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and their behavior. They are able to handle life’s challenges, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. But just as it requires effort to build or maintain physical health, so it is with mental and emotional health. Improving your emotional health can be a rewarding experience, benefiting all aspects of your life, including boosting your mood, building resilience, and adding to your overall enjoyment of life.
Mental or emotional health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.
Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive characteristics. Similarly, not feeling bad is not the same as feeling good. While some people may not have negative feelings, they still need to do things that make them feel positive in order to achieve mental and emotional health.
People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:
A sense of contentment.
A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun.
The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity.
A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships.
The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change.
A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.
The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
Self-confidence and high self-esteem.
Operating with these positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow for a full and vibrant life through productive, meaningful activities and strong relationships.
These positive characteristics also help you cope when faced with life’s challenges and stresses.
Physical health is connected to mental and emotional health
Taking care of your physical health is a powerful first step towards mental and emotional health. The mind and the body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.
The activities you engage in and the daily choices you make affect the way you feel physically and emotionally.
Get enough rest. To have good mental and emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body. That includes getting enough sleep. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to function optimally.
Learn about good nutrition and practice it. The subject of nutrition is complicated and not always easy to put into practice. But the more you learn about what you eat and how it affects your energy and mood, the better you can feel.
Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going on a short walk. To get the most mental health benefits, aim for 30 minutes or more of exercise per day.
Get a dose of sunlight every day. Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day. This can be done while exercising, gardening, or socializing.
Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs. These are stimulants that may unnaturally make you feel good in the short term, but have long-term negative consequences for mood and emotional health.
Risk factors for mental and emotional problems
Both mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be shaped by your experiences. Early childhood experiences are especially significant. Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be changed by experience.
Risk factors that can compromise mental and emotional health:
Poor connection or attachment to your primary caretaker early in life. Feeling lonely, isolated, unsafe, confused, or abused as an infant or young child.
Traumas or serious losses, especially early in life. Death of a parent or other traumatic experiences such as war or hospitalization.
Learned helplessness. Negative experiences that lead to a belief that you’re helpless and that you have little control over the situations in your life.
Illness, especially when it’s chronic, disabling, or isolates you from others.
Side effects of medications, especially in older people who may be taking a variety of medications.
Substance abuse. Alcohol and drug abuse can both cause mental health problems and make preexisting mental or emotional problems worse.
When to seek professional help for emotional problems
If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your mental and emotional health and you still don’t feel good—then it’s time to seek professional help. Because we are so socially attuned, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional can motivate us to do things for ourselves that we were not able to do on our own.