Emotional Well-being? And how to improve it.

What is emotional well-being?

Emotional well-being refers to the ability to recognise and handle all emotions in a way that does not negatively impact your life.

Emotional well-being is recognising an emotion as it occurs, deciding if it is appropriate to the current situation, controlling what you feel and deciding what to do instead of reacting blindly to all feelings as they bubble up.

Just because you have an emotion doesn’t mean you must act on it.

Dr Elaine Ryan

John’s boss criticised his performance, and he felt angry at his boss. He immediately lashed out at his boss.  

Kate was also criticised by her boss and felt angry. Unlike John, she was aware of the feeling of anger but noted raising her voice and lashing out would not be an appropriate way to respond at work. She could sit with the emotion, calm herself, read through the criticism, and decide what to do next.

Kate’s ability to deal with emotion as it arose and navigate a difficult situation is an example of good emotional well-being. 

I particularly like MedicalNewsToday’s definition of emotional well-being as “the awareness and understanding a person has about their emotions and how well they can manage through life events.” 

Why is emotional well-being important?

Increased happiness

Having the ability to manage emotions in terms of emotional well-being is associated with increased happiness levels.

You can boost your happiness levels right now by increasing endorphins through movement, dance or walking.

Lower stress levels

Good emotional well-being can significantly lower stress and anxiety. I have worked therapeutically with people with anxiety for over 20 years, and a common feature was getting caught up in the emotion and spiralling out of control and having the ability to recognise a feeling without getting caught up in it by lower the anxiety you experience as you are not reacting blindly to the emotion.

Better relationships

Understanding your emotional life is essential for good relationships. The easiest way to explain this is to give an example of the effect of poor emotional well-being and relationships.

Sarah came home from work, and her partner Paul appeared to be in a bad mood with her. He was using sarcasm and being passive-aggressive. He had also been drinking. Eventually, Sarah got to the bottom of Paul’s bad mood. He had imagined how Sarah would react to a hypothetical situation and was experiencing anger about this.

When Sarah returned home from work, this anger, possibly fuelled by alcohol consumption, spilled into the real world, and he was angry with Sarah.

Being unable to experience an emotion and separate from others is an example of poor emotional well-being, which can negatively affect relationships.

Higher levels of satisfaction with life

Having good emotional well-being can help with life satisfaction in various ways. It allows us to talk about our feelings and concerns with others, making us feel more understood. Saying “no” when needed without guilt can also boost our self-esteem. Feeling content and secure in our support network can positively affect our well-being. Relaxing and feeling good about ourselves can reduce stress and anxiety.

Good mental health and well-being can also positively impact our physical health. When positive events and connections dominate our life stories, it can lead to higher subjective well-being. Finally, creating positive relationships with our family and friends and engaging in enjoyable activities can also help us feel a sense of belonging and reduce loneliness. All of these things together can lead to an overall more significant level of life satisfaction.

Improved coping skills

Good emotional well-being is essential for developing practical coping skills to help one manage stress, anxiety, anger, and other unpleasant emotions. This is because emotional well-being is associated with self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

These skills allow one to address stress appropriately, build their emotional intelligence, practice mindfulness, keep track of their emotions through a mood diary, accept all feelings, prioritise activities that bring joy, and look for support when needed. These help individuals better regulate their emotions and respond to challenging situations more healthily and effectively.

Ultimately, this can help them develop the skills to better manage and cope with stress, anxiety, and other unpleasant emotions, improving overall emotional well-being.

Good emotional well-being less likely to suffer from mental health.

Emotional wellness can help protect against mental health disorders by reducing stress and promoting productivity. Stress can harm physical health and lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. Positive emotions can help reduce stress, boost immunity, and increase productivity.

By developing healthy relationships with others, practising mindfulness, engaging in physical activity, and finding positive activities, people can set themselves up to better manage their feelings and emotions, leading to improved physical and mental health.

Increased productivity

Having good emotional well-being can benefit productivity at work and school. Work-life balance matters in managing stress and allowing time to relax, allowing you to be more productive and focused when needed. Learning new skills can help to boost self-confidence and build a sense of purpose. Regular physical activity and practising gratitude can help lift your mood and well-being.

Better quality of life

Having good emotional well-being has many benefits for improving the quality of life. For example, it can lead to better relationships with others, increased productivity, and better physical health. Studies have shown that life stories dominated by positive events and connections are related to higher subjective well-being, which can improve overall health and well-being.

Talking to someone about emotional concerns, feeling content most of the time, and saying “no” without feeling guilty can all contribute to overall well-being. Emotional well-being can also positively affect cardiovascular health, fertility, and pregnancy. Finally, mindfulness can help individuals better enjoy life and understand themselves better. These things combined can lead to a higher quality of life.

How to improve your emotional well-being?

Engage in self-care

Learning to care for yourself is one of the best ways to manage your emotional life. You can start by trying the following.

Teach yourself how to self-soothe any problematic emotions.

Take a moment at the end of the day and focus on everything you did well, no matter how small and forgive yourself for any mistakes you made. I appreciate that some of you reading this will have difficulty with forgiving yourself, and I recommend you read this article from VeryWellMind on how to forgive yourself.

Prioritise Sleep. It isn’t easy to manage your emotions if you have not slept well the night before. If you find it hard to sleep or stay asleep, this page from the NHS may help.

Learn to cognitively reframe a situation.

And don’t forget, just because you have an emotion does not mean you have to act on it.

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