Since 2004, wellness advocates across the U.S. have recognized October as National Emotional Wellness Month.
This year, we encourage you to join us as we take this time to raise awareness about the importance of emotional wellness, monitor our emotional wellness, and share what we know about emotional wellness to help our friends, colleagues, and loved ones.
More than any October over the past decade, we need to understand what emotional wellness is, how to identify it within ourselves, and how to enhance it if we think we’re struggling or believe our emotional wellness could use a boost.
Because no matter where we stand on the coronavirus pandemic, the social and racial justice movement, or the national election, we all need to admit that since March 2020, circumstances in the U.S. have been stressful.
For many, they’ve been traumatic.
That’s why we need to understand emotional wellness: these past 18 months have been a rollercoaster – and if you’re feeling it like most of us are, there are some things you can do to help yourself.
What is Emotional Wellness?
Let’s start by defining what we mean by wellness.
According to the National Wellness Institute (NWI), wellness is:
“An active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.”
They further define six dimensions of wellness:
- Occupational Wellness
- Physical Wellness
- Social Wellness
- Intellectual Wellness
- Spiritual Wellness
- Emotional Wellness
To read comprehensive definitions of the first five dimensions of wellness, click here. For the purposes of this article, we offer a simplified definition of emotional wellness from The National Center for Emotional Wellness:
“Emotional Wellness is an awareness, understanding, and acceptance of our feelings and our ability to effectively manage our emotions through challenges and change.”
Now that we’re on the same page with what wellness means in general and what emotional wellness means specifically, we’ll move on to the real question at hand: how do we support or improve our emotional wellness?
Managing Emotional Wellness
We scoured the internet for all the tips we could find to help people manage, support, or improve their emotional wellness. If we included them all, this list would run to 50 + items. We distilled the essence of all the tips and advice we found to the following list.
Top Seven Tips for Improving Emotional Wellness
1. Identify Your Emotions
Learn to recognize, define, and describe your emotions. This is truly the first step. You need to be able to identify what you feel in order to manage and process those feelings in a healthy and productive way.
2. Express Your Emotions
Once you learn to name your emotions, the next step is expressing them in a healthy and productive manner. This means that if you’re happy about something or someone, share that emotion. And if you’re unhappy about someone or something, share that, too – but of course, do it in a kind, compassionate, and respectful manner.
3. Manage Stress
Stress can lead to negative emotions. In order to manage stress, it’s important to cover the basics: eat healthy food, get adequate sleep, and move your body or exercise daily. These three habits are the foundation of both physical and emotional wellness.
4. Learn Mindfulness
Meditation, yoga, and tai chi are what most people think of when they hear the word mindfulness. But did you know that mindfulness is a state of awareness, rather than a set of esoteric practices? Mindfulness means slowing down and paying attention to your internal and external life as it is in the moment without judgment. This means that mindfulness can happen anywhere, and any time. You can take a mindful walk. You can cook and eat mindfully. If you are mindful while doing it, then that activity counts as a mindfulness activity.
5. Find Balance
If your work stresses you out, find a way to get more personal time or family time. And if your family stresses you out, find a way to get more alone time or time engaging in hobbies. If anything you do threatens to overwhelm your emotions and take control of your thoughts, then find a simple, actionable way to address it – and restore balance to your life.
6. Find Purpose
You may find meaning or purpose in your work, your family, your hobbies, or your passions. Your meaning or purpose may be spiritual, or it may be secular. It may be neither, or it may be both. Whatever form it takes, experts on wellness say that having a reason to get up in the morning improves emotional wellness.
7. Seek Connection and Support
Human beings are social creatures. In general, we thrive in communities where we feel loved and supported. For millennia, we lived in small family groups or groups of families that provided this support. We still do, although in the modern world many people live alone. Whether you live alone or with family, it’s possible to feel lonely and disconnected. When that happens, our emotional wellness suffers. To maintain your emotional wellness – yes, even if you’re a hermit-type – we recommend seeking groups of people where you feel accepted, loved, and supported.
This list is far from complete. But if you follow these seven tips, we’re sure your emotional wellness will improve, if it needed improvement. And if your state of emotional wellness is in a good place, then these tips will help it stay there.
If You Face Significant Emotional Challenges
We understand that the tips on our list above may be easier said than done. That’s especially true for people who experience the symptoms of mental illness, a behavioral disorder, or a mood disorder. If you feel sadness, anger, irritability, hopelessness, or a range of negative or uncomfortable emotions every day for two weeks or more, then we encourage you to seek the support of a trained mental health professional. They can administer a full psychological assessment to determine if you have developed – or are at risk of developing – a mental health disorder. If they identify the presence of a mental health disorder, then don’t despair: treatment works. They’ll offer resources for the most appropriate level of professional support. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances of successfully managing your emotions – and improving your long-term emotional wellness.