Emotional Well-Being: Answers From A Psychotherapist
- Snigdha Samantray
- 9 Min Read
While 450 million people across the globe are going through some or the other mental health disorders, ensuring emotional well being becomes the need of the hour. Emotional well-being is nothing but the ability to successfully handle life’s stressors and adapt to change and difficult times. How you feel can impact your ability to carry out activities of daily life, your relationships, and your overall mental health & well-being.
One American mental health study found that, while one in four respondents was depressed, only one in five was happy and the rest fell somewhere between neither happy nor depressed. Another Australian study on well-being showed, 58% of the participants wished to spend more time on improving their health and well-being.79% of participants who were parents with children aged less than 18 years of age wished to spend more time on improving their health and well-being and 83% are prepared to pay more for products and services that improve feelings of well-being. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis by researchers has implicated significant impact of the Pandemic on the emotional well-being of people in India. This study documented that the adverse outcomes of the pandemic were, stress (61%), psychological distress (43%), anxiety (34%), depression (33%), and sleep disturbances (27%). Thus, the COVID-19 pandemic has also imposed a threat to emotional well-being adding on to the already existing burden of stress. This undoubtedly necessitates the importance of ensuring emotional well-being as a precautionary measure against deteriorated mental health conditions.
There is no one single definition of emotional well-being as it is mostly subjective. However, for better understanding it can be conceptualised as the balance between the negative & positive experiences in life. It can also be understood as the evaluation of personal happiness & satisfaction with life at a given point of time. There are 8 primary dimensions to emotional well-being and these dimensions stand common for everyone. Emotional well-being is a holistic amalgamation of physical, personal, financial, social, occupational, intellectual, spiritual and environmental dimensions of well-being. Ensuring a healthy balance among all the following dimensions can in turn ensure emotional well-being.
Mind body Paradigm
As the saying goes the body achieves what the mind believes. Understanding the mind body connection is pivotal to emotional well-being. Together the mind and body form our consciousness that is reflected in our awareness. The mind-body connection is an important component of holistic medicine and this healthcare philosophy seeks to treat the whole individual and not just their symptoms. Scientific studies over a period of time have revealed that hormones and neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) associated with emotion can also have physical effects. They can affect our heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns and even our appetite.
A self-assessment of mind & body is often helpful. Once we understand the mind body connection, we will also the understand where to begin from. Begin by evaluating what stands stronger for you, mind or body, what seems easier to work with and whichever seems comparatively stronger, you can begin with it. For example, if you feel emotionally exhausted & drained, begin by making lifestyle changes around sleep, timely eating habits & regular exercise. On the other hand, if you feel physically weak or you have any physical limitations begin with strengthening your mind by practicing relaxation & mindfulness exercises. Either way, improvement in one is most likely to improve the other
Stress & Emotional Well-being
Stress has been declared as the health epidemic of the 21st century by World Health Organisation. According to World Economic forum 2018 report, if stress induced mental health issues are not taken into consideration, then it can cost a global economic loss worth $16 trillion by the year 2030.
When you are stressed, your body releases a stress hormone called cortisol. While cortisol helps you deal adaptively to stress, prolonged release of cortisol under prolonged stress may lead to negative long-term effects on the body which include:
– Weakened immunity
– Digestive problems
– Slow healing
Stress often manifests first in the form of physical symptoms like fatigue, headache, backache, neck pain, disturbed appetite etc, and then gradually progresses to affect your sleep cycle. With increasing sleep disturbances, your brain ceases to process information efficiently and your higher cognitive functions like attention, memory, thinking etc are significantly affected. Ensuring mental well being is the key to managing stress and preventing chances of mental health disorders.
Learning Interpersonal Relationship Skills
There’s a strong link between interpersonal relationships and emotional well-being. That’s why it’s vital to surround yourself with people who give you joy, support, and comfort. It’s important to make wise choices of people you associate with. Close interactions with people you share maximum energy, time & proximity, hold a chance of impacting you both in favourable and unfavourable ways.
I once had this interesting question from one of my clients, “why are relationships so complicated?”. As a human you literally can’t avoid interpersonal relationships and hence, the problems that come along with it. When you get into a relationship it’s inevitable that you get hurt & also hurt others. The more the number of humans you interact, the more the number of ideas, opinions, personalities and hence the differences. To get rid of your relationship problems all that you can do is to live in this universe all alone with no other human around. But that’s a hypothetical construct & you just can’t exist alone, and hence the inevitable complexities in interpersonal relationships follow.
According to Adlerian Psychology, all problems are interpersonal relationship problems. Yet interpersonal relationships are important as, in reality we become an individual or individuate only in the social context of interpersonal relationships. Hence, learning interpersonal skills is pivotal to emotional well-being. Since we are not taught interpersonal relationships skills in high school, it needs, everyday mindful and conscious choices, self-awareness and a highly unbiased perspective to form healthy interpersonal relationships. The interpersonal relationship skills mostly comprise of conflict management skills, positive perception of others, requirements of collaboration with others, interdependence and flexibility in relationships, win-win relationships goals and effective communication skills.
Life is a paradox. It first gives you the experience and then lets the lesson sink in. A lot of you feel unprepared & helpless when life unfolds in its not so likable mysterious ways. Resilience is the ability to withstand the paradoxes and surprises of life. It is the ability to be through or sustain a little longer or in other words be tough. “Why do I need to be resilient?”, asked one of my clients. You need to be resilient simply because life is beautiful! When you withstand the storm, you also get to see the beautiful clear blue sky when the storm passes. I often talk about the four philosophical pillars of building resilience and they being uncertainty, mistake, pain and change.
Uncertainty is the very essence of life. If you look back at your past, you will realise despite your best efforts or being certain of some things, they never worked out or were pushed out of your life. That’s because life wants you to let go. If you don’t let go, you will never know what’s meant to stay or what awaits you. Being okay with uncertainty is one of the primary aspects of emotional well-being. Leaving a little bit of space in your life for the unknown and being content with “not knowing” certain things, always gives you the platform for self-expansion, which has no limits.
Mistakes are okay. Understanding this will make you less fearful of mistakes and more forgiving towards yourself and others. So many of you suffer from the guilt of committing mistakes not realizing the fact that its only mistakes that make you become wiser over a period of time. Being okay with a mistake opens you to a world of possibilities. A mistake free life is just a myth. There is a difference between “committing mistake” and “being foolish”. you don’t become foolish by committing mistake. You act foolish when you repeat your mistakes. Your mind is trained in demarcating things into right and wrong, into good and bad, into positive and negative so much so, that in the desire for right, you miss out on the significance of the wrong or the mistake. Every person you have admired, everything that has inspired you and every master piece you have come across, is the by-product of a series of told and untold mistakes.
Pain is actually not that painful. It’s good to think this way because you can’t avoid pain. Primitively your brain is designed to avoid anything that’s threatening, unpleasant or painful. Conditioned to the belief that pain is undesirable, you avoid it throughout your life, unable to understand that pain is the inevitable truth of human experience. Wisdom lies in knowing that irrespective of its inevitability, it cannot exist forever. If you just contemplate, you would realize that anything you have achieved with great difficulty or pain holds great personal value. You would not have realized its worth if it was achieved the easy way. You want success & happiness but you don’t want pain, now that’s the problem, because the process or the path to success or happiness involves pain! For example, you want to lose weight but you don’t want to go through the process, the pain of exercising and diet. In this scenario you can just wish to be thin but never actually become thin. Pain pushes your limits, fine tunes your skills and hence brings your best self out that you possibly never imagined. So is applicable for emotional pain, it changes you for the better, makes you much wiser & emotionally intelligent. One who gets okay with pain can face any difficult circumstance in life, yet forge ahead.
Change is the only constant. Ever wondered what made successful people successful? Its change and discomfort. The one zone not to stay forever is the comfort zone, because progress happens beyond the comfort zone. The world is in a continuous state of motion, and changing every moment. Technologies, trends and thoughts will all evolve around you with time. Integrating yourself within the natural ebb and flow of change will ensure a fulfilling life experience. Change is important for personal development, change helps put an end to unfavorable situations, change bring growth & progress, change helps us move on and no matter how much we try, change is going to happen anyway! Then why not embrace change.
And Finally Lessons from the World’s Happiest Countries
Gallup, an American analytics & advisory company, reputed for its public opinion polls which are conducted worldwide, presents the World Happiness Report every year. According to this report countries are evaluated on scores they get based on life satisfaction & emotional well-being of their citizens. Countries like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Bhutan top the chart. The emotional well-being quotient is high for the citizens of these countries and they share common traits of generosity, well-balanced life, are physically active and have a passion to pursue or look forward to everyday. They also unanimously believe that one does not have to be rich to be happy, as these countries rank low among the world’s richest countries.
Research on Waorani Tribes from Amazon & Jarawa Tribes have stated them to be the world’s happiest tribes. These tribes share a common sense of purpose that is greater than themselves. For them preserving nature is their purpose and nature is their source of happiness. During the one of the researches when the members of the Waorani tribe were asked what keeps them happy, it was difficult for them to comprehend the question, as there was no such word in their language which could define happiness. This is simply because happiness is their baseline mood, a constant way of being, unless something major like deforestation or destruction of their land takes place, they usually don’t tend to sway from their baseline mood.
Happiness is NOT an emotional response to a desired outcome, the standards of which we raise every time we attain it! Rather happiness is the satisfaction with the way one’s life is going. How one feels about the course of their life & what meaning they derive out of it. You have to let go of those grudges that didn’t let you sleep, the apology you never got, petty fight with family members, the humiliation you received, unrequited love, competitive feelings and a bygone, in order to be truly happy. Happiness lies in little things you see, those baby steps you take towards self-care, in your gratitude, in your purpose and in the meaning, you assign to life. Happiness lies in something to hope for and something to love. Happiness is not a pursuit, it’s the outcome of emotional well-being.
Are you ready to make emotional well being a priority too? It may get hard at times to process emotions – especially those attached to tough situations. These are the times where you can sought help from psychotherapists. They will be able to help you not only understand why you’re feeling the way you are, but also help guide you with tools that can help you take care of your emotional health. It is important to remember that the emotional well being is as important as your physical well being. Taking care of your mental health requires you to take the first step.