How is your health?
If you are like most people, you took this as a question about your physical health, prompting you to take inventory of your aches and pains, and whether or not you have chronic medical issues or even a life-threatening disease.
However, when we think about our health, emotional health and well being are just as important as our physical health, and for the most part, more important in determining how “well” we feel. After all, we all have known people who have been pain and disease free but are still chronically unhappy and “unwell,” and others who were struggling with their health but remained happy, optimistic and connected.
Thus the old adage, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything” is not really true, unless you are including your emotional health. The mind and body working together determine how healthy we are. A healthy body without a healthy mind just does not “cut it” in terms of making us happy with ourselves and our lives.
I have known many people who were physically healthy and successful by society’s standards, as well as well-educated, attractive, enjoying the riches of their success with expensive cars and exceptional homes, but still felt depressed, anxious and “emotionally unwell.” I have also known others who have some physical limitations and did not achieve anywhere near the level of financial and societal success of others in their social sphere, who were perfectly content and optimistic.
Being in peak health, being thin and attractive, going to the best schools, getting the best grades, and having the best material possessions are all fine. Certainly, though, all these wonderful things do not ensure emotional well-being. And without your emotional wellness, you don’t really have anything!”
So what are the cornerstones of emotional wellness? Although most of us know the guidelines for physical and nutritional fitness, the guidelines for emotional fitness are a lot less tangible. Considering that our emotional health actually determines our sense of happiness and well being, it certainly would be good to pay attention at least as much to our emotional fitness as we do to our eating and exercise habits.
In my 40 years as a therapist, I have identified the following eight features of people who are emotionally well. This is by no means an exhaustive list of emotional wellness markers, but these eight factors have been very consistent in people who enjoy a life of emotional wellness.
8 Hallmarks of Emotional Wellness:
1. The ability to live in the present without excessive worry about the future or rumination about the past. This present focus is called Mindfulness.
2. Having a sense of connection and interpersonal support. Those who are isolated and feel alone tend to be lonely and more unhappy than those with a strong sense of connection.
3. Those who are self-compassionate tend to be happier with themselves than those who have an active inner critic. Self-esteem based on achievement and being better than average does not ensure happiness, as it is is evaluative and judgmental. Those who are kind to themselves instead of beating themselves up for their mistakes and even failures enjoy much more peace of mind.
4. Holding onto grudges and being unforgiving will surely limit your emotional wellness. Those people who keep their life stuck in blame do not realize that forgiveness is truly a gift you give to yourself. Get bitter or get better – which do you choose?
5. Those who think rationally and have healthy thinking habits tend to be more emotionally fit. Healthy thinkers can identify their thinking errors, such as all-or-nothing reasoning, and they have faith that even if things don’t turn out well, they still can.
6. Emotionally fit individuals know that no one has power over us unless we give it to them. They are in control of their feelings and do not blame others for how they think or feel.
7. Those who have a sense of humor and are able to laugh at life’s ironies and mishaps will not be defined by bitterness and rigidity. They know that life is too serious to take themselves too seriously, and they see the lighter side of things.
8. Emotionally resilient people are grateful people. Instead of lamenting about what is missing in their lives, they appreciate what they have. They do their best, accept what can not be changed and find reasons to be grateful for it all.
Click here to take The Emotional Wellness Quiz, which will give you a snapshot of how you measure up in these eight areas of emotional health. How did you do? What areas do you need to work on? Take this quiz periodically to check your emotional wellness pulse and keep trying to improve your score, as you strive to be healthy in mind as well as in body – Aren’t you worth it?