(Editor’s note: In today’s world, we see violence in our society, on a regular basis on TV and even in our own communities. It is more important than ever to monitor your mental health and care for yourself emotionally and seek services if you need them, especially in light of events like the recent nightclub terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida. Daniel Norton, director of psychological health at the 914th Airlift Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York, offers the following tips for improving your emotional health. This article is for educational use only and is not intended to replace professional help. Information for this article was taken from the New Orleans Holistic Health Examiner and Self Growth.com.)
Emotional health refers to a person’s overall psychological well-being. People who are emotionally healthy handle stress well, deal with challenges as opportunities, have a positive self-image and are able to sustain healthy relationships. Here are a few tips on how to stay emotionally healthy:
• Laugh often. Emotional benefits of laughter include feeling a sense of contentment and joy, shifting your perspective to a positive outlook, giving you more courage and hope, dissolving tense situations, and improving overall mood.
• Do frequent feelings checks. Determine how you feel when you wake up in the morning. If the feeling is negative, figure out what’s causing it and take steps to resolve the unsettling situation. Reorient your emotions with affirmations and confidence to set a new tone for the day. Recognize any physiological clues your body gives off as evidence of emotional stress.
• Focus on the positive. Admit any negative feelings you may have, deal with them and move on. Do not dwell on circumstances from the past or those you cannot control. Say positive affirmations and keep inspirational quotes handy. Remember that what you focus on is what you will attract in life; so put your energy toward that which you desire, not what you don’t want.
• Take care of your physical self. The mind/body connection refers to how your body responds to the way you think, feel and act. If you are physically healthy, your emotions will tend to be high. Bodily disease or illness can create a slippery slope of negative emotions that self-perpetuate other physical problems, such as insomnia, upset stomach, and general aches and pains. Respect your body by exercising, eating nutritious foods and getting proper rest.
• Perform relaxation exercises. Dealing with emotional ups and downs can be exhaustive and confusing. Allow your body and mind to create a blank slate so your intentions to heal the situation can come from a place of clarity, insight and faith instead of fear or despair. Invest time and energy into practices such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, Reiki or massage.
• Stay socially connected. Involving yourself in projects and activities with family members, friends or the general community is a strong aspect of wellness at any age. Pick an interest you would like to learn more about, join a club focused on that particular hobby and form connections with those involved. Social networking websites also offer an outlet for creating relationships based on similar interests.
• Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is the state of being fully aware of your thoughts, feelings and actions at any given wakeful moment. Living in the here and now is a powerful self-growth tool. You begin to learn the feelings you experience are ever-changing, you discover underlying destructive patterns that you may not have noticed before and you evolve by changing those fixed patterns into more dynamic approaches.
• Channel your feelings productively. If you feel acutely angered or overwhelmed, instead of harboring negative emotions, release built-up tension through activities such as running, writing in a journal or transforming stress into motivation to achieve your goals.
• Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Thinking in terms of black and white instead of shades of gray is a common element of depression. Words like disastrous, terrible, ruined and never should be red-flag signs that you may be thinking catastrophically. Situations may be unfortunate, but not a complete end-of-the-world disaster. Consider the point that even smart people don’t always make the best choices. You can learn from your mistakes and consciously choose a healthier path next time.
• Begin a personal development journey. If you are ready and willing to heal your life, realize that you are in the driver’s seat. Think of ways to improve yourself, your relationships and your overall life every day. Choose thoughts, feelings and actions that are aligned with truth, love and power.
For more on emotional health, check out the Wingman Toolkit website at www.wingmantoolkit.org or contact your local director of psychological health.