Emotional Health


What is emotional health? 

First off, it is not the same as mental health. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, mental health is defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of well-being in which an individual realize his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and can contribute to his or her community”.

Emotional health is harder to define because the precarious balance that constitutes emotional health is not only unique to each individual but also varies among different societies due to cultural inputs and norms. While the experience of emotions themselves is a universal phenomenon, how the individual experiences those emotions, is not. Expression, perception and regulation of emotions vary as a function of a wide range of cultural influences, such as expected normative behaviour of the surrounding society. For example, research suggests that maximizing positive emotions and minimizing negative emotions, is the predominant social script in Western cultures; which is not inherently true in others.

North America is obsessed with individualism and the idea that a “good society” is one in which individuals are provided with the freedom to pursue their private endeavours, independent of interference from others and the state. This form of thinking is expressed mostly through the relentless market mentality of the society, and the transactional approach to co-existence.

It is even more critical for people in cultures that emphasize individualism to maintain good emotional health due to the lack of societal structures in place to help them.

Research on the relationship between culture and emotions dates back to 1872 when Darwin argued that emotions and the expression of emotions are universal. Since then, how emotions should be classified has drawn input from sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists alike; creating a wide range of theories spanning many disciplines, including, neurobiological, somatic and cognitive. Discrete Emotion Theory assumes that there are seven to ten core emotions and thousands of emotion-related words which are all synonyms of these core emotions.

Why is emotional health important?

Emotional health is finding the equilibrium between the various pillars of your life. Your emotional health covers the spectrum of your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well being. You can fortify these foundations through friendships, self-purpose, social reassurance, and love. Emotional health includes aspects like the ability to navigate tragic life events, the capacity to manage internal stress, removing unnecessary anxieties, or fostering the will to be able to try again after failing.

When feeling mentally and emotionally healthy, we are better equipped to juggle different aspects of life and make the necessary changes to restore balance.

Having good emotional health is an essential aspect of fostering self-awareness, resilience, and overall contentment. Maintaining a strong sense of emotional health can lead to successes in work, relationships and psychological health.  In the past, researchers believed that success made people happy. However, newer research cited by the American Psychological Association reveals that it is the other way around. Happy people are more likely to work toward goals, find the resources they need, and attract others with their energy and optimism.

How does emotional health affect the ability to learn?

While fluctuations in emotions are natural, failure to proactively manage your mental state can be detrimental to your ability to learn. When negative emotions like stress are left unchecked, it can cause individuals to become overwhelmed, discouraged, and sometimes, spiral out of control. However, stress is a fact of life, and learning to manage stress-inducing external inputs is vital in the ability to learn in fast-paced environments. Being able to recognize the sources of your stress, understand why these sources are causing you stress, and ultimately channel that stress into positive sources, like motivation and determination, are vital for individuals in learning environments.

Whether you are in grade school, college or in a working environment, being able to continuously and consistently learn at a fast pace is a very sought after attribute. Maintaining balance in your emotional health is fundamental in your ability to absorb information in overwhelming and potentially negative scenarios. Emotional health is the key to improving your effectiveness. It’s the foundation for dealing with impulses, coping with negativity, and responding versus reacting; it is the input that makes the difference. A lack of emotional health is what limits some people in their ability to manage themselves, manage others, or manage situations.

“There are certain emotions that will kill your drive; frustration and confusion.  You can change these to a positive force.  Frustration means you are on the verge of a breakthrough.  Confusion can mean you are about to learn something.  Expect the breakthrough and expect to learn”

— Kathleen Spike, Master Certified Coach

By fostering good emotional health, you’re equipping yourself with the ability to learn regardless of your environment or external inputs.

How can I foster good emotional health?

Focus on balance, introspection, mindfulness, and the things you can control. When was the last time you sat alone and reflected? When was the last time you sat alone and focused on your feelings? When was the last time you sat alone and appreciated everything you had? 

It sounds simple and elementary, but so few put meaningful introspection into their routine. They are caught up in the chaos of life and struggle to find time to balance their minds; it is within this lack of balance, that irrationality and distress can enter your life. You lose the ability to see and think clearly, you allow yourself to fall victim to resentment and will resort to blaming things outside of your control. Ultimately, you remove your ability to focus on the things that matter.  

Never forget, your focus determines your reality.

— Qui-Gon Jinn

Make a point of practising mindfulness, notice your thoughts as thoughts, don’t put significant judgment or weight into any particular thought just because you held it. Having bad thoughts doesn’t make you a bad person, nor does having good thoughts make you a good one. It is your actions that determine the quality of your character. By practising mindfulness, you can disentangle yourself from your thoughts and focus on the present. 

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are, what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. Mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, but it is more readily available to those who practice on a daily basis. If you want to learn more about mindfulness and start practising on a daily basis, this is a great place to start.

Like mindfulness, being aware of what you can control is a fundamental part of emotional health. Be aware that there are endless external forces, that you have no control over, and can impact your life in significant ways. What you can control is your perception of these external forces.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You have the power to change that perception - it’s not easy, but it is possible, and it starts with allowing yourself to let go of the things you can’t control. Let go of the things that only cause you to compare yourself to others. Let go of things that only cause you anxiety. Focus on the things that you can control; at the end of the day, the only person in charge of your happiness is you.

But what can I control?

There are things you can try and control, and then there are things that you alone can control. Focusing on the latter is what helps bring you balance. A few of those things are:

Your Beliefs: What do you choose to believe? What philosophies do you identify with? What morals do you hold? What is essential for you to believe in? Foster beliefs that align with your morals.

Your Attitude:  How do you approach things? Are you inherently optimistic or pessimistic? What are your expectations? Happiness = Reality - Expectations.

Your Perspective: Why do you view things a certain way? What is contributing to your viewpoint? Why is it different from others? Once you realize that no two people are going to have the same perspective, understanding differences gets easier. Reading about sonder will help with this.

Your Effort: How much are you willing to commit? How much will you sacrifice? Nothing of value in this life comes easy - how hard will you work for your happiness? When you know you gave it your all; the results are meaningless.

How Much You Listen: Listening is the cure for ignorance, it's the key to understanding differences, and an essential part of any relationship, business, platonic or romantic. Being able to listen genuinely, without the need to interrupt or say your piece, is one of the most important skills someone can foster. After all, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear” - Mark Twain. 

How Gracious You Are: If you’re reading this, it is likely that more than half of the world’s populations would do anything to change places with you right now, even just for a day. Being thankful and gracious are two of the most important aspects of someone who is truly happy. Do to others as you would like others to do you, and that includes giving thanks.

How Patient You Are: Life journey isn’t linear; it’s filled with peaks and valleys, amazing surprises and devastating disappointments. Being patient with yourself and those around you will allow you to handle the unexpected with greater resilience. Patience is indeed a virtue.

These aren’t profound philosophies or original ideas, but they are all true. By fostering balance, introspection, mindfulness and the understanding of what you can control, you’re equipping yourself with the resilience to manage the chaos of life. These elements are the foundation of good emotional health, and only you have the ability to change them. Change won’t happen overnight, it will take practice and persistence to get you where you want to go, but by committing yourself and keeping an open mind, you will see the difference.


Ted Rogers Management Conference (TRMC)


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