Health: 3 emotional health skills

When considering health, most of us focus on physical wellbeing.

I see emotional wellness as a deep sense of meaning and purpose, an abiding sense of peace, the ability to manage the stress and transitions of life, awareness of your thoughts and feelings and the ability to manage them.

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Your emotions matter.

Emotions influence your behaviour, your relationships and your thinking.

When we’re angry, we regress and aggress. We don’t think clearly or logically. We can’t see any other point of view but our own. An adult will act like a child, a ten-year-old like a toddler. A teenager . . . may still act like a teenager. We say and do things we may later regret.

When depressed, we withdraw; we think negatively about ourselves, others, our world and the future. Depression narrows our thinking and shades it black – we don’t recognize our positive options and we may close ourselves off from the world.

When anxious, we freeze — we overestimate danger and challenge — and we underestimate our ability to cope. Anxiety holds us back from doing what we need to do, from moving forward, from reaching out and from giving our best to the world.

You might see your emotions as products of genetics, physiology and luck. But it’s crucial to recognize your own resources and ability to cope with them. In fact, gaining mastery in key emotional health skills can bolster resilience to life’s challenges.

Three Key Emotional Health Skills

  • Meditative practice: Prayer, yoga, formal meditation and mindfulness are all effective ways of calming the mind, centring thoughts and reflecting. By deliberately pausing, breathing and slowing your thoughts and actions, you become less reactive. Begin each day with a prayer of thankfulness. Count your blessings before you even get out of bed. This can prime the pump to allow you to see the good that you have and your ability to make a positive difference in your life. You’ll be more likely to see the positive throughout the day, and as each day unfolds, you may feel more empowered to seize opportunities to make a difference. As you retire at the end of the day, reflect on its blessing (how you helped others and how others helped you) and lessons. You may not end the day any younger or richer, but perhaps a little wiser and with memories of some positive experiences. What is the measure of your days?
  • Choose your thoughts: Thoughts are powerful. If we don’t take care, they can provoke anxiety, fuel anger and prolong depression. You can’t control the weather, traffic lights, the behaviour of others or luck, but you can choose your thoughts. Cognitive therapy is one method of becoming aware of your thoughts, recognizing how they affect your mood or anxiety level and gaining control over your emotions by choosing more efficacious thoughts. The next time you feel angry, irritated, sad or anxious, reflect on the thoughts that may have triggered your emotions. Is there another way to look at the situation? With time, you’ll gain facility in recognizing the underlying assumptions and beliefs behind unhealthy thinking.
  • Turn your problems into goals: Instead of replaying the past or ruminating on the negative, think about what you want. When you are most relaxed, visualize yourself having achieved your goal, experiencing a sense of peace and living a life rich with purpose and meaning. How do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear? Make it real.If the effects of stress, anxiety, mood or other psychological symptoms are having a significant impact on your performance at school, work or at home, your relationships, your self-care or your enjoyment of life, see your family doctor. Your emotions are an important aspect of your health.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. For more on achieving your positive potential at every age:

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