Society is obsessed with physical health and looking good, but we often neglect the warning signs of mental illness until they can no longer be ignored and the consequences are far-reaching.
Good mental health and wellbeing makes us feel good about ourselves, helps us get the most out of life and to feel connected to others. It is about doing everything we can to effectively manage our thoughts, feelings and actions in a way that helps us function in our day-to-day lives.
Being emotionally healthy isn’t about being perpetually happy. It’s about being aware of our emotions, the positive ones as well as the negative and working on the latter.
The significance of emotional wellbeing
Emotional wellbeing bestows us with a sense of fulfilment and inspires us to live better. It also instils a greater sense of purpose in our lives and, thereby, enhances our zest for living. Apart from developing strong self-esteem and confidence, emotional wellbeing also enhances our cognitive abilities. Consequently, it enables us to learn new ways to do things, embrace challenge and to adapt to change.
Poor mental health – an epidemic of our times
The more advanced we become technologically, the more our mental health is suffering. Most urban cultures are structured in a way that induces immense stress. As early as 2005, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that more than half the US population (51%) suffered from some sort of mental illness.
Moreover, the cases of youth suicide are rising, not only in the US but all over the world and it’s a sad indictment of our under-funded health systems that many never get the medical intervention so desperately needed.
Ways to enhance emotional wellbeing
Mental health is a subject for the professionals, but there are many checks that we can do for ourselves to make sure our emotional wellbeing is not compromised or under duress.
So, what questions should we be asking?
Am I aware of my reactions and emotions?
Emotional wellness involves the ability to be conscious of our emotions. But what happens if you can’t access your emotions or are aware of only some of the most obvious ones, like anger or hatred? Your emotional wellbeing depends a lot on your ability to recognise what makes you angry or sad and then to deal with them accordingly. Journalling is a good way to recognise triggers. Next time you feel a surge of anger or hatred, write it down – what made you feel that way, was it really an obvious trigger or was there some underlying problem that caused you to lash out. What were your reactions, were they physical or verbal, and, more importantly, how did you feel afterwards – let down, guilty, anxious, full of fear? Getting to the bottom of triggers is part of the battle, but writing down each time it happens will help you recognise a pattern and prepare for it in the future.
Are you repressing something which is upsetting you?
Repressed feelings are one of the crucial factors leading to poor emotional health. Consequently, proper expression of your emotions and feelings plays a major role in ensuring your mental wellbeing. But we can’t always offload to others and sometimes we don’t know what it is that is causing us to hurt so much. This is when we need to consult a medical professional to help unlock what it is we are repressing. If you already know, then try a distraction technique. Next time you’re feeling anger or hatred, don’t indulge those negative emotions, go for a walk, or chat through your feelings with a friend or do something creative, like painting. Exercise is another great way to shift negative emotions and moods fast.
Am I thinking through my actions?
In order to minimise the chances of evoking negative emotions through your actions, it’s important that you think before you act. Even after putting your best effort and thought into action, it might not work out the way you wanted it to, but, that’s not the point here. When you’ve thought over the consequences of your actions beforehand, you’re in a better position to deal with them. Doing so would also help you to avoid regret which is a major cause of emotional disturbance.
Am I adequately managing my stress?
Despite all our efforts to steer clear of it, stress inevitably creeps into our lives. When it does, you have to take active measures to relieve it. Meditation, regular vacations, spending time with friends and family, journalling, listening to music can be some of the effective ways to help you deal with stress.
Am I finding purpose in my actions?
Emotional imbalance emanates from a feeling of lack of purpose. Whenever you’re doing something, especially over a long period, you need to ask yourself whether it’s meaningful to you. If you don’t find any meaning in your actions, even after trying, it’s better to discontinue them. Moreover, you need to be very clear about your priorities and things that matter to you and those that don’t.
Try to focus on the positive aspects of your life and don’t harp upon the negative ones. Emotional wellbeing always comes from within and is only affected by external inputs if we allow it.