For starters, it’s not the same thing as mental health. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, emotional health “focuses on being in tune with our emotions, vulnerability, and authenticity,” says licensed psychologist Juli Fraga, PsyD.
Having good emotional health is a fundamental aspect of fostering resilience, self-awareness, and overall contentment.
Keep in mind that having good emotional health doesn’t mean you’re always happy or free from negative emotions. It’s about having the skills and resources to manage the ups and downs of day-to-day life.
Here’s a look at some common examples of good emotional health and the impact it can have.
1. Noticing upsetting emotions when they arise
This enables you to name them and process them in healthy ways. For example, you might choose to compassionately confront someone who hurt or angered you rather than lash out at them. Or maybe you opt to set some healthy boundaries at work or with loved ones.
2. Catching your own self-judgments
According to Fraga, this means turning that critical inner voice into an opportunity for self-love and compassion.
For example, when you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, you might ask:
- “If my child, partner, or best friend were talking to me this way, how would I respond?”
- “What makes it challenging for me to treat myself the same way I treat others?”
Emotional health flourishes when you’re curious about your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings and why they might arise at certain times, says Fraga.
It’s important to be able to ask yourself, “Why do I react this way?” or “What is it about my past that might lead me to have a strong reaction to x, y, and z?”
Working on our emotional health is just as important as taking care of our physical well-being.
And that work pays off with:
- Resilience to stress.
Researchshows that emotional distress makes you more vulnerable to physical illness by impacting your immune system.
- Deeper relationships. When you’re equipped with the skills to manage your emotions, it’s easier for you to connect with others and show more empathy and compassion. You’re also better able to hold arguments and talk through your feelings.
- Higher self-esteem. Your thoughts, feelings, and experiences influence the way you feel about yourself. Good emotional health helps you see the best in yourself despite challenges.
- More energy. Having a positive outlook makes you feel more energized and helps you focus and think more clearly, whereas poor emotional health depletes your mental resources and leads to exhaustion.
Emotional health is more of a process than a goal. And chances are you’re already doing some things that help strengthen your emotional health.
As you go through these tips, remember that emotional health isn’t about always being in a good mood. It’s about equipping yourself to deal with the good, the bad, and everything in between.
1. Practice emotional regulation
Emotions can and sometimes will get the best of you, but learning coping strategies to temper them can help you respond instead of react to upsetting situations, Fraga advises.
Coping strategies can include:
- listening to music
- talking to a therapist
If you’re overwhelmed with stress at work or at home, getting regular exercise can feel impossible. But taking the time for physical activity can nourish both your emotional and your physical health, says Fraga.
Aim to set aside 30 minutes a day for some kind of physical activity. If you’re short on time, find 10- or 15-minute chunks of time to go for a quick walk.
3. Strengthen social connections
Your links to others can have powerful effects on your emotional and physical health. Staying connected with loved ones can provide a buffer when you’re going through challenges,
Foster these connections by spending time with close friends and family, either in person or over the phone.
4. Be mindful
A growing body of research links mindfulness with less emotional reactivity and greater relationship satisfaction.
Mindfulness can be as simple as focusing on one thing at a time, trying a social media detox, or turning household tasks into a mental break. The point is to be consistent with your mindfulness practice and dedicate even just a few minutes to something you enjoy.
5. Get quality sleep
Sacrificing sleep makes you more vulnerable to stress and anxiety.
One 2018 study found that being sleep-deprived leads to more repetitive negative thoughts. Being overly tired can make you more emotionally reactive. That emotional reactivity can negatively affect your outlook, performance, and relationships.
Make sure you’re being consistent with your sleep and waking times as well as optimizing your bedroom environment so that you’re getting enough rest.
Good emotional health is crucial to your overall well-being. If you feel like your thoughts and emotions are getting the best of you, taking care of your core needs — like sleep and connection with loves ones — can help.
If that doesn’t seem to do the trick, consider working with a therapist or another mental health professional. They can help you clearly identify the aspects of your emotional health you want to improve and help you come up with a plan.