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Are you emotionally healthy?

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Mental or emotional health refers to your overall psychological well-being. It includes the way you feel about yourself, the quality of your relationships, and your ability to manage your feelings and deal with difficulties.{{more}}

People who are emotionally healthy are in control of their emotions and their behaviour. They are able to handle life’s challenges, build strong relationships, and recover from setbacks. But just as it requires effort to build or maintain physical health, so it is with mental and emotional health. Improving your emotional health can be a rewarding experience, benefiting all aspects of your life, including boosting your mood, building resilience, and adding to your overall enjoyment of life.

Good mental health isn’t just the absence of mental health problems. Being mentally or emotionally healthy is much more than being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Rather than the absence of mental illness, mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive characteristics. Similarly, not feeling bad is not the same as feeling good. While some people may not have negative feelings, they still need to do things that make them feel positive in order to achieve mental and emotional health.

People who are mentally and emotionally healthy have:

o A sense of contentment

o A zest for living and the ability to laugh and have fun

o The ability to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity

o A sense of meaning and purpose, in both their activities and their relationships

o The flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change

o A balance between work and play, rest and activity, etc.

o The ability to build and maintain fulfilling relationships

o Self-confidence and high self-esteem

These positive characteristics of mental and emotional health allow you to participate in life to the fullest extent possible through productive, meaningful activities and strong relationships. These positive characteristics also help you cope when faced with life’s challenges and stresses.

The role of resilience in emotional health

Being emotionally healthy doesn’t mean never going through bad times or experiencing emotional problems. We all go through disappointments, loss, and change. And while these are normal parts of life, they can still cause sadness, anxiety, and stress.

The difference is that people with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience. People who are emotionally healthy have the tools for coping with difficult situations and maintaining a positive outlook. They remain focused, flexible, and creative in bad times, as well as good.

One of the key factors in resilience is the ability to balance stress and your emotions. The capacity to recognize your emotions and express them appropriately helps you avoid getting stuck in depression, anxiety, or other negative mood states. Another key factor is having a strong support network. Having trusted people you can turn to for encouragement and support will boost your resilience in tough times.

Physical health is connected to emotional health

Taking care of your body is a powerful first step towards emotional health. The mind and the body are linked. When you improve your physical health, you’ll automatically experience greater mental and emotional well-being. For example, exercise not only strengthens our heart and lungs, but also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals that energize us and lift our mood.

The things you do daily, the daily choices you make, affect the way you feel physically and emotionally. What do you need to do?

o Get enough rest. To have good mental and emotional health, it’s important to get enough sleep. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night in order to function optimally.

o Learn about good nutrition and practise it. The subject of nutrition is complicated and not always easy to put into practise. But the more you learn about what you eat and how it affects your energy and mood, the better you can feel.

o Exercise to relieve stress and lift your mood. Exercise is a powerful antidote to stress, anxiety, and depression. Look for small ways to add activity to your day, like taking the stairs, when an elevator is an option, or going on a short walk during the day. To get the most mental health benefits, aim for 30 minutes or more of exercise per day.

o Get a dose of sunlight every day. Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day. This can be done while exercising, or socializing.

o Limit alcohol and avoid cigarettes and other drugs. These are stimulants that may unnaturally make you feel good in the short-term, but have long-term negative consequences for mood and emotional health.

Improve mental and emotional health by taking care of yourself

In order to maintain and strengthen your mental and emotional health, it’s important to pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Don’t let stress and negative emotions build up. Try to maintain a balance between your daily responsibilities and the things you enjoy. If you take care of yourself, you’ll be better prepared to deal with challenges if, and when they arise.

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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