How do you define emotional health?
Everyone knows how to define physical health: it’s when your body works to its full potential, without being restricted by illness or disease. But how do you define emotional health?
Emotional health is not the same as mental health. Most people can recognize signs of mental health problems, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive behavior. But emotional health is about more than the way that your mind works. It’s about the way that you respond and react to the world, to other people, and to what’s going on inside your head. It’s a broad topic, but there are some basic, must-know signs of emotional good health.
Emotionally healthy people understand and own their feelings
A key characteristic of emotional health is recognizing your own feelings, of being able to say “I’m angry”, “I’m pleased for you” or “I’m jealous”, and knowing that it’s OK to feel that way, and to express it appropriately. People who can recognize and own their feelings are in good emotional health.
Emotionally healthy people are easy to befriend
Because emotionally healthy people are in touch with their own feelings, they are more able to display empathy towards others. They genuinely understand how you feel. And that makes them great to have as friends and confidantes. On the other hand, the person who isn’t in touch with their own feelings is often the one with whom the conversation gets stuck in an awkward silence.
Emotionally healthy people react proportionately
You know the person who can make a drama out of a crisis, who will overreact and lose their cool at the slightest provocation. And you might know someone who doesn’t react emotionally to anything at all. Whatever is going on around them, they seem unmoved; they display what psychologists call “flattened affect”. An emotionally healthy person is somewhere in the middle. They’ll laugh out loud if the situation’s hilarious, they might be in tears in the face of tragedy, but the way they express their feelings is relative to the situation.
Emotionally healthy people are consistent
Emotional health isn’t just about reacting proportionately. It’s about reacting consistently. You can be pretty sure how an emotionally healthy person is going to respond. If you tell a joke, or bring bad news, you’ve got a good idea of the response you’ll get. When you’re around a less emotionally healthy person, you feel like you’re treading on eggshells, never sure what kind of mood they’re in today.
Emotionally healthy people learn from mistakes
It’s not healthy never to admit that you’re wrong. But it’s just as unhealthy to try and take the blame for everything. And the definition of insanity is to keep on trying the same failed idea over and over again. Emotional good health means admitting your mistakes, owning them, and most importantly, learning from them. The emotionally healthy person is the one who knows what they’ll do differently next time.
Emotionally healthy people acknowledge their limitations
Do you know someone who has an opinion on everything, even subjects they know nothing about? They’ll rant about immigration, taxation, science or religion, with only the vaguest idea of the facts. The emotionally unhealthy person might be biased, ill-informed or just plain wrong, but they still feel the need to tell you what they think. If an emotionally healthy person doesn’t know about a subject, they ask about it, rather than giving an opinion. Emotional good health means that you know it’s OK not to know everything, that’s it’s OK to ask questions, and that sometimes you can just stay quiet and listen.
Emotionally healthy people value their experiences
You’ll often hear popular people described as “loving life”. That doesn’t mean they’re always happy, even when things are going badly. It means they appreciate and value whatever experiences come their way. This is a great sign of emotional health (and it’s no surprise that people like this have plenty of friends). The emotionally unhealthy person decides that she’ll be happy when she gets a job at Disneyland, or that he’ll feel appreciated when he gets a million followers. Until this happens, she misses the guy who leaves a note of appreciation, he takes no notice of the positive comments. They’re not valuing their experiences right now, because they’ve decided that right now isn’t important. For the emotionally healthy person, right now is what really matters.
So if you want to improve your own emotional health, take a look at this list. How would you rate yourself on valuing what’s happening right now, on recognizing you don’t know everything and learning from mistakes? Do you react proportionately and consistently? Do people find you approachable and empathetic? And if you’ve just thought about these questions, congratulations! You’re trying to understand and own your emotions, which is the most critical sign of positive emotional health. – S. Humphreys