We live our lives surrounded by chaos. Work challenges, family needs, social connections... In such a chaotic landscape, we often lose sight of ourselves, especially when it comes to our emotional wants and needs.
Today, we're here to explore an often overlooked essential ingredient to a happy life: emotional wellness. Join us as we outline a quick but comprehensive guide to prioritizing our emotional health and building lifelong healthy habits that allow us to navigate relationships, cope with stress, and find fulfillment in life.
Before delving into a few strategies for improving emotional health and wellness, it is important to understand what emotional wellness means. Emotional wellness can be defined as a mindset of emotional and psychological well-being in which an individual is able to function effectively in their daily life. Therefore, emotional wellness is not simply the absence of illness, but rather an ongoing state of positive emotional health.
A healthy emotional mindset is essential for maintaining a balanced life. It affects our ability to manage stress, form healthy relationships, engage in productive activities and generally enjoy life. Poor emotional health impacts our lives negatively in ways you might not expect, including physical ailments and social isolation.
Our emotional well-being is shaped by a combination of internal and external factors, personal life experiences to the environments we inhabit and the lifestyle choices we make. By gaining insight into these factors, we can better comprehend the complexities of emotional health and cultivate strategies to nurture a more positive and balanced emotional state.
Environment, including both our home and work environments, plays a significant role in our emotional wellness. A positive work culture, job satisfaction, and work-life balance all contribute to better emotional health, while a toxic work environment can lead to chronic stress, burnout, and even feelings of anxiety.
You may not realize it, but your actual physical surroundings can also impact your mood. Living in a chronically cluttered environment may feel overwhelming and cause long-term stress. If you find yourself in a stressful space or environment, it may help to explore a natural setting, as outdoor environments have been shown to reduce racing thoughts¹.
The way we choose to live our lives, including our habits, behaviors, and daily routines, can either promote or hinder our emotional well-being. We will explore them more in a later section, but we can make an effort to build healthier habits into various aspects of our routines to facilitate better moods. Examples may include taking care of our physical health, finding ways to manage stress, and surrounding ourselves with a strong social support system.
Major life events can often be the catalyst to emotional health issues. A stressful cross-country move or a major illness can put a great deal of stress and emotional strain on you and your loved ones. It's important to be aware of these factors when they arise and reach out to friends, family, or healthcare professionals for support.
Symptoms of poor emotional wellness can manifest in various ways, and individuals may experience a combination of them. Occasional feelings of sadness, stress, or anxiety are normal, but if these feelings persist and begin to interfere with daily functioning, it may be a sign of poor emotional well-being.
Examples of physical symptoms:
Fatigue or general lack of energy.
Headaches or body aches.
Examples of emotional symptoms:
Increased irritability or anger.
Persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety.
Examples of behavioral symptoms:
Changes in appetite.
Frequent sleep disturbances.
Just as physical fitness requires consistent effort and attention, so does our emotional well-being. Healthy coping mechanisms empower individuals to take an active role in their emotional well-being. Adding the following strategies to your emotional wellness toolkit may help you pave the way toward a more emotionally balanced and fulfilling life.
Self-care can take many forms, but at its core, it involves intentionally taking time to nurture and prioritize our physical and emotional needs. Engaging in self-care activities can help with stress management, mood improvement, and the building of emotional resilience. Even very simple practices like mindfulness meditation, journaling, or spending time in nature can ground us in the present moment and provide a sense of calm and inner peace.
Self compassion is another major piece of self-care. We have to make an effort to understand and accept our feelings even when they're negative if we want to be emotionally healthy. A positive mindset, especially with regard to ourselves, helps build a healthy self esteem as well.
Remember, self-care looks different for everyone. While some may practice mindfulness, others may find the same peaceful feelings while indulging in a favorite hobby. Building enjoyable activities into your routine gives you a consistent stream of good moments that may boost your emotional well-being and reduce low moods².
Human beings are inherently social creatures, and the quality of our relationships profoundly influences our well-being. Not only do social relationships reduce stress, but they may also lower physical health risks and help us fight off germs³. In the scope of emotional health, meaningful interactions with family, friends, and community members provide a sense of belonging, support, and validation, which can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Social circles are also essential to successfully handle life's stresses. In them, you can find a safe space to share emotions and seek advice during challenging times. Sharing your positive experiences with others as well can lead to increased joy and fulfillment surrounding those experiences.
Cultivating and nurturing social connections is a powerful way to create a more robust emotional foundation for facing life's ups and downs.
A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of vitamins and minerals gives the body and brain the necessary fuel to function optimally. Without proper fuel, individuals may experience lowered moods or lack of energy. Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins, have even been linked to improved mood and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety⁴.
Physical activity has a somewhat more direct impact on emotional well-being. Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood elevators that can induce feelings of happiness and reduce stress. You may also notice an increased sense of accomplishment or a boosted self-esteem, both of which contribute to emotional resilience.
When we sleep, our bodies and brains undergo essential processes that regulate emotions, consolidate memories, and restore cognitive functions. Sufficient, quality sleep supports emotional regulation, enabling individuals to cope with stress more effectively and reducing the likelihood of mood swings or irritability.
During deep sleep stages, the brain processes emotional experiences, helping us gain perspective and cope with challenging emotions. Conversely, not getting enough sleep can lead to heightened emotional reactivity, making it difficult to manage stressors and process emotions in a healthy manner⁵.
Prioritizing proper sleep hygiene, such as maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, can significantly enhance emotional wellness and overall mental health.
As we continue on our individual journeys towards emotional wellness, we must remember to approach ourselves with kindness and compassion, acknowledging that taking care of our emotional health is an ongoing process that requires patience, effort, and self-acceptance.
(1) Cordova, Melanie Greaver (February 2020) Spending time in nature reduces stress and anxiety
(2) Pressman, Sarah D, et al (July 2009) Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being
(3) National Institutes of Health (February 2017) Do Social Ties Affect Our Health?
(4) Mehdi, Seema, et al (January 2023) Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation in the Treatment of Depression: An Observational Study
(5) Columbia University (March 2022) How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Mental Health