How you feel can affect your ability to carry out everyday activities, your relationships, and your overall mental health. How you react to your experiences and feelings can change over time. In 1947 the World Health Organisation defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.”
Until now the NHS has given precedence to promoting physical well-being, but the green paper Our Healthier Nation signals that this may need to change (1). It emphasizes the importance of emotional well-being for health, indeed, health is defined as “being confident and positive and able to cope with the ups and downs of life.”
Emotional wellness or emotional well-being is thus the ability to successfully handle life’s stresses and adapt to change and difficult times.
Factors that can influence emotional well-being
Various day-to-day factors can affect the way we react emotionally. Some of these include
- challenges with work, school, relationships, or home life.
- changes in health.
- changes in relationships.
- retirement, which may affect social circles or sense of purpose.
- losing loved ones.
- moving away from family and friends.
For children and adolescents, their emotional well-being is equally as important as their physical health. Maintaining proper emotional well-being among them can help children to
- reach emotional milestones.
- reach developmental milestones.
- learn healthy social skills.
- learn how to cope when problems arise.
- have a positive quality of life.
- function at home and in school.
Emotional well-being issues in children can lead to problems in school, at home, and in their ability to form relationships.
Strategies to improve your emotional wellbeing
Emotional well-being can be worked upon and you can improve it yourself. Understand and follow these 6 strategies given by the National Institute of Health (2).
People who are emotionally well, experts say, have fewer negative emotions and can bounce back from difficulties faster. This quality is called resilience. Learning healthy ways to cope and how to draw from resources in your community can help you build resilience.
To build resilience
- Develop healthy physical habits- Healthy eating, physical activity, and regular sleep can improve your physical and mental health.
- Take time for yourself each day- Notice the good moments. Do something you enjoy.
- Look at problems from different angles- Think of challenging situations as growth opportunities. Learn from your mistakes. Try to see the positive side of things.
- Practice gratitude- Take time to note things to be thankful for each day.
- Explore your beliefs about the meaning and purpose of life. Think about how to guide your life by the principles important to you.
- Tap into social connections and community. Surround yourself with positive, healthy people. Ask for help when you need it.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time. Stress can give you a rush of energy when it’s needed most. But if the stress lasts a long time—a condition known as chronic stress—those “high-alert” changes become harmful rather than helpful. Learning healthy ways to cope with stress can also boost your resilience.
To help manage stress
- Get enough sleep- Adults need 7 or more hours each night, school-age kids need 9–12, and teens need 8–10.
- Exercise regularly- Just 30 minutes a day of walking can boost mood and reduce stress.
- Build a social support network.
- Set priorities- Decide what must get done and what can wait. Say no to new tasks if you feel they’re too much.
- Show compassion for yourself- Note what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day, not what you didn’t.
- Schedule regular times for a relaxing activity that uses mindfulness/breathing exercises, like yoga or tai chi.
- Seek help- Talk to a mental health professional if you feel unable to cope, have suicidal thoughts, or use drugs or alcohol to cope.
Get quality sleep
To fit in everything we want to do in our day, we often sacrifice sleep. But sleep affects both mental and physical health. It’s vital to your well-being. When you’re tired, you can’t function at your best. Sleep helps you think more clearly, have quicker reflexes, and focus better. Take steps to make sure you regularly get a good night’s sleep.
To get better quality sleep
- Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
- Sleep in a dark, quiet, comfortable environment.
- Exercise daily (but not right before bedtime).
- Limit the use of electronics before bed.
- Relax before bedtime. Try a warm bath or reading.
- Avoid alcohol and large meals before bedtime.
- Avoid stimulants like nicotine and caffeine.
- Don’t take naps after mid-afternoon. Keep naps short.
- Try to get natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Consult a healthcare professional if you have ongoing sleep problems
Strengthen social connections
Social connections might help protect health and lengthen life. Scientists are finding that our links to others can have powerful effects on our health—both emotionally and physically. Whether with romantic partners, family, friends, neighbors, or others, social connections can influence our biology and well-being.
To build healthy support systems
- Build strong relationships with your children.
- Get active and share good habits with family and friends.
- If you’re a family caregiver, ask for help from others.
- Join a group focused on a favorite hobby, such as reading, hiking, or painting.
- Take a class to learn something new.
- Volunteer for things you care about in your community, like a community garden, school, library, or place of worship.
- Travel to different places and meet new people.
Cope with loss
When someone you love dies, your world changes. There is no right or wrong way to mourn. Although the death of a loved one can feel overwhelming, most people can make it through the grieving process with the support of family and friends. Learn healthy ways to help you through difficult times.
To help cope with the loss
- Take care of yourself. Try to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Avoid bad habits—like smoking or drinking alcohol—that can put your health at risk.
- Talk to caring friends. Let others know when you want to talk.
- Find a grief support group. It might help to talk with others who are also grieving.
- Don’t make major changes right away. Wait a while before making big decisions like moving or changing jobs.
- Talk to your doctor if you’re having trouble with everyday activities.
- Consider additional support. Sometimes short-term talk therapy can help.
- Be patient. Mourning takes time. It’s common to have roller-coaster emotions for a while.
The concept of mindfulness is simple. This ancient practice is about being completely aware of what’s happening in the present—of all, that’s going on inside and all that’s happening around you. It means not living your life on “autopilot.” Becoming a more mindful person requires commitment and practice. Here are some tips to help you get started.
To be more mindful
- Take some deep breaths- Breathe in through your nose to a count of 4, hold for 1 second and then exhale through the mouth to a count of 5. Repeat often.
- Enjoy a stroll- As you walk, notice your breath and the sights and sounds around you. As thoughts and worries enter your mind, note them but then return to the present.
- Practice mindful eating- Be aware of taste, textures, and flavors in each bite, and listen to your body when you are hungry and full.
- Be aware of your body- Mentally scan your body from head to toe. Bring your attention to how each part feels.
- You can also find mindfulness resources, including online programs and teacher-guided practices.
Emotional well-being can go a long way in helping you achieve your life goals along with maintaining your mental peace and sanity. It is up to you to choose your mental ad emotional well-being before anything else.
Author: Dr Pooja Nilgar (Content writer and editor)
- Stewart-Brown, S., 1998. Emotional well-being and its relation to health: Physical disease may well result from emotional distress. Bmj, 317(7173), pp.1608-1609.
- 2. Emotional wellness toolkit (2022) National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://www.nih.gov/health information/emotional-wellness-toolkit (Accessed: January 23, 2023).