Emotional health. Sounds good, right?
I think there’s a bit of confusion over what emotional health actually means, though. It’s not as simple as being happy all the time. But there’s this fear going around of feeling anything other than happiness. Don’t get me wrong, happiness is a great goal, but it’s not realistic to expect to feel that way for your entire life. That’s why emotional health is more complicated than attaining one emotion.
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So let’s explore this topic. Emotional health: what it is and what it is not.
What is emotional health?
It’s having a strong emotional vocabulary. This means understanding the varieties of emotions and knowing how to recognize them in yourself and others. You need to understand the difference between happiness and contentment, sadness and melancholy, anger and jealousy. The more you know, the more tools you have to work with when you next meet an issue.
It’s knowing how to work through both positive and negative emotions. An emotionally healthy person knows how to work through their anger without taking it out on another human being. They understand that their life-stopping grief is temporary and that they can eventually come out the other side stronger. They know that sadness is just as normal as happiness. The emotionally healthy person is capable of feeling the highs and lows that life has to offer, which ultimately makes the highs sweeter and makes them a more capable human being.
It’s recognizing emotions in others. Understanding when a someone is upset or has good news will make you a better friend. Recognizing when someone isn’t emotionally capable of handling a trying situation will be the signal for you to step in and help them. Recognizing emotions in others is integral in our communication.
What emotional health is not.
It’s not being happy all the time. Life happens. You will have bad days. You will not feel happy on those days. Imagine the only emotion you understood for your whole life was happiness and then suddenly someone you loved passed away – you would be very ill-equipped to manage your negative emotions. We shouldn’t avoid negative emotions, we should learn how to manage them.
It’s not getting stuck in negative emotions. It’s okay to feel anger and grief and jealousy and all those things. You’re human. That’s part of the deal. It’s not okay, however, to stay stuck in those negative emotions, to wallow in that darkness and not try to move towards a better day. That’s not coping, that’s giving up. That’s not managing negative emotions, that’s letting them run your life.
It’s not disregarding the feelings of others. There’s something to be said for empathy and compassion. If you want to build strong relationships with those around you, you’ll need to acknowledge their emotions. That being said, I don’t want you to sacrifice your well-being for the sake of others. It’s a balancing act.
Emotional health is tricky. It calls for you to analyze yourself and others, to translate abstract signals into a message, to find what works for you and what doesn’t. But emotional health will help you grow into a confident, capable and compassionate human being.
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Enjoy the journey!