Recent research has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that emotional health is just as important to overall wellness as physical health. Our emotional state connects to our stress levels, metabolism, sleep, and other core body functions. Here’s how to promote good emotional health and enjoy better energy, immunity, and well-being.
Understanding the Mind-Body Connection of Emotional Health
When you see acrobats perform feats of strength or hear about monks who can sit in the snow without freezing, the phrase “mind over body” comes to mind. But we all experience the impact of the mind on our body when we prepare to speak in public, find a burst of energy to complete our work right before the deadline, or heroically pull a child out of the way of a speeding vehicle.
This is helpful stress, and it’s an important motivator for our bodies. Adrenaline flows, our breath quickens to flood our muscles with oxygen, and our vision focuses to help respond to the stress.
Unfortunately, more stress isn’t a good thing. In fact, chronic stress can overwhelm your body with that “fight or flight” response. Core functions, such as sleep, digestion, and mood regulation all get interrupted by the constant stress signals. Your immunity can plummet as well as your body diverts its resources to stress response.
Clearly, stress, despair, and sadness can all wreak havoc on your body’s physical health. So, how can you counteract this?
Mind Over Matter: Restoring Your Health Through Emotional Wellness
No amount of positive thinking will undo disease. However, there is ample evidence that positive activities and emotional wellness play a large role in your physical health. So while you cannot meditate COVID-19 away, good coping skills and healthy activities can prevent your immunity from plunging due to emotional distress.
Let’s return to those stories of strength and resilience. Monks are allegedly able to sit in freezing snow because they are controlling their body’s physiological response. Acrobats are able to do remarkable things and overcome their fear because they are focused on their creative expression. However, you don’t have to be a daredevil to take advantage of the mind–body connection.
Movement practices such as yoga, tai chi, and pilates bring together meditation, focus, and physical strength. These are excellent ways to calm your mind, produce positive emotions, and encourage your body to find its inner balance. Regular practitioners often experience greater stress resilience, fewer moments of panic, and better sleep and metabolism.
Even something as simple as deep breathing has been shown to lower heart rate and modulate blood pressure. By focusing your mind and relaxing the body, you can minimize the negative impact of stress. Remember, stress is your response to an external trigger. In other words, your mind is the source of the stress that impairs your body. So by reducing your mind’s stress signals, you can relax your body and improve your overall wellness.
How to Improve Your Emotional Health
Of course, stress resilience is only part of the picture. Our resilience depends largely on how we process external stress and regard our own bodies. Remember, our minds are a complex ecosystem of imaginings, dreams, and fears. This can make it difficult to process stress triggers accurately. After all, the fears of losing one’s job or being embarrassed in public are far more intangible than the fear of a tiger about to pounce.
To support your emotional well-being, and therefore your overall health, take time to build your self-confidence and cope with your insecurities. These fears can interfere with our relationships or motivation or cause us to experience despair and hopelessness. In people with chronic depression, these effects are amplified.
However, everyone can benefit from emotional wellness techniques. Some good examples include hobbies, such as gardening, knitting, jogging, playing games with friends, making art, or spending time with pets. Any activity that produces joy and doesn’t cause harm to the body (e.g. drinking) is a good tool for emotional wellness.
Good relationship skills are important as well. When we engage with people who lift us up and complement our interests, we feel more “whole” and confident. On the flip side, negative relationships or dynamics such as emotional abuse or codependency can seriously impact our overall well-being. Surround yourself with people who bring you happiness, but be sure to spend time with yourself, nurturing your own interests and talents.
Emotional wellness is not only a condition but also a lifestyle. By nurturing your emotional health, you support your overall health. After the stress of 2020, take time this year to renew your emotional well-being. Your body and mind will both thank you.