Path to…

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People at an optimal level of Emotional Wellness are in control of their emotions and their behavior. They are able to handle adversities, forge strong relationships, and adjust to the curveballs of life. But just as it requires repetition to build and maintain muscle, the same goes for improving Emotional Wellness. Improving your Emotional Wellness can be an enriching experience, benefiting all aspects of your life, most notably boosting your mood, building resilience, and adding to your overall joie de vivre.

Emotional Wellness refers to overall psychological well-being, and includes the way we feel about ourselves, the quality of our relationships, and our abilities to manage our feelings and deal with difficulties.

Good Emotional Wellness isn’t the absence of emotional stress. It is not being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Emotional Wellness refers to the presence of positive characteristics to keep things in the proper perspective. While some people may not suffer from chronic negative feelings, they still need to do things that make them feel positive in order to achieve Emotional Wellness.

People with optimal Emotional Wellness display these characteristics:

An overall sense of contentment.
A joy for life, and the abilities to laugh and have fun.
The abilities manage stress and recover from adversity.
A sense of meaning/purpose, in both activities and relationships.
Flexibility to learn new things and adapt to change.
A balance of work, play, rest and activity.
The ability to build lasting and fulfilling relationships.
Self-confidence and Self-esteem.

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Emotional Wellness doesn’t mean never experiencing hardships or emotional problems. Disappointments, loss, and change are normal parts of life, and should be expected to cause sadness, anxiety, and stress.

The difference is that people with high Emotional Wellness have the ability to bounce back from adversity, trauma, and stress. This ability is called resilience. People who are emotionally well have developed tools for needed to cope with difficult situations while maintaining a positive outlook. They are able to remain clear, flexible, and resourceful in both turbulent times and good.

There are two main factors in developing resilience. First, is the capability to balance stress and emotions, as well as connecting those emotions to behaviors. The ability to recognize your emotions and express them appropriately helps ward off emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, and other negative mood states.

The other main factor is having a strong social support network. Having a person or people you trust and can turn to for encouragement and support will bolster your resilience during tough times. Having someone with good listening and counseling skills neutralizes the irrational pressure we put on ourselves to handle everything our own. It also assuages the internal conflict we feel when we cannot manage all tasks. No man is an island unto himself. Humans are social creatures by nature, we have social brains that require companionship in order to feel satisfied and thrive. We are not designed or intended to live in isolation.

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Making connections with others requires effort. Start by getting out from behind your TV or computer screen. Screens have their place but they will never have the same effect as an expression of interest or a reassuring touch, or a face-to-face encounter with a fellow human. Interpersonal communication is a largely nonverbal experience that requires you to be in direct contact with other people, so be sure to cultivate your real-world relationships more than your virtual ones. Venting to someone on Facebook is not the same as having a confidant. 500 friends on social media does not constitute a social circle.

Spend time daily, face-to-face, with the people you like. Spending time with people you enjoy should be a priority. Plan to spend time with friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members who have a positive upbeat attitude, and are interested in you and your well-being. Take the time to get to know people you meet during the course of your day.

Do something for someone else. Doing things that benefit others has a beneficial effect on how you feel about yourself. The meaning and purpose you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. There are countless individual and group volunteer opportunities to explore- Schools, churches, nonprofits, and charitable organizations of all sorts depend on volunteers for their survival. Get out and get active. Network with others. Find people with common interests—people you like being with who can bring positive aspects into your life. They may even become friends.

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Your mental and emotional health has been and will continue to be dictated by your experiences. Early childhood experiences can play a pivotal role. Genetic and biological factors can also play a role, but these too can be changed as emotions and behavior are shaped by experience. Whatever internal or external factors have shaped your emotional health, it’s never too late to make changes that can improve your overall well-being.

Some common risk factors can include (and are not limited to) Traumas or serious losses, particularly early in life. Having a poor connection or attachment to a primary caretaker early in life, can have long-lasting affects leading a then young person to grow up feeling lonely, isolated, and unsafe.
The death of a parent at any age is immensely traumatic, as are experiences like hospitalization and personal violence.

Risk factors can be remedied through insulating factors, such as strong interpersonal relationships, practicing a healthy lifestyle, and developing coping skills for managing stress and negative emotions.

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An emotionally well person is be able to enjoy the life and be successful. Emotional wellness is not an end stage but a continual process of change and growth.

If you’ve made consistent efforts to improve your Emotional Wellness, and you still don’t feel good—then it’s time to seek professional help.

These are considered “red-flag” behaviors. Observation of one or more of these behaviors may warrant consultation with a professional (I know a good one):

Restlessness, or inability to sleep
Feeling down, hopeless, or helpless most of the time
Prolonged concentration problems, especially that are disrupting your work or home life.
Using nicotine, food, drugs, or alcohol as a coping skill for difficult emotions.
Self-destructive, negative, harmful thoughts or fears that you can’t control.
Thoughts of death or suicide.

These signs are not be taken lightly, and all indicate deficits in Emotional Wellness.

Due to our innately social brains, and our need for interpersonal connection and acceptance, input from a knowledgeable, caring professional can motivate us to do things and make changes for ourselves we were not previously doing on our own.

Emotional Wellness is not a means to an end. It is an ongoing, evolving process producing growth and change.

No blog is successful without feedback and the exchange of ideas. Scroll down, and tell me what you think about what you’ve read in “The Floor Is Your’s” section below.

Be well

-O. Salim Thornton, CWC

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