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What is emotional well-being? 8 ways to improve your emotional health

Emotional well-being is an important part of holistic wellness, as it can impact your outlook on life, your relationships, and your health. This post will share a definition of emotional well-being, why it’s important, and practical ways to achieve it.

Taking care of your emotional well-being matters. When you’re emotionally healthy you manage the various elements of your life and work with a range of emotions, without losing control. You bounce back.

We’re all more aware of it right now, coming off of a year that triggered more intense emotions for many people. But attending to your emotional well-being is always a good investment, in good times or bad.

Life presents events that challenge you, but when you know how to face these obstacles with a resilient mindset, your confidence in your ability to get through any circumstance is strengthened.

What is emotional well-being?

Emotional well-being is the ability to produce positive emotions, moods, thoughts, and feelings, and adapt when confronted with adversity and stressful situations.

One of its foundations is resilience, which allows you to navigate challenging life events. Think of resilience like a muscle. It flexes and develops the more you use it. Resilience impacts how you face challenges and how you think about the challenges you face.

For example, when you’re passed up for a promotion at work, do you feel motivated to jump into a new professional development program, or do you feel resentful? Are you optimistic that another strong opportunity will come along when the time is right, or do you feel overwhelming disappointment that you missed this particular opportunity?

Emotional well-being allows you to focus on the positive, and manage the negative emotions and feelings you may have in a given situation. This can help you forge stronger relationships with those around you. For instance, the person promoted into the role you had wanted, or the company leader who may have inadvertently overlooked you.

According to the Mental Health Foundation and the CDC:

“A positive sense of well-being…enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life. Well-being generally includes global judgments of life satisfaction and feelings ranging from depression to joy.”

How you deal with your range of emotions is critical.

Why is emotional well-being important?

Your resilience grows when you recognize the emotions that trigger you and express them in a constructive manner to yourself and others.

“If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it — usually to those closest to us: our family, our neighbors, our co-workers, and invariably, the most vulnerable, our children.”  – Fr. Richard Rohr

To transform that adversity, begin by observing and managing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. That helps determine the actions you take and completely changes the way you handle stressful situations and make decisions.

As you place more emphasis on your emotional well-being, you’re able to:

  • Receive and offer feedback with a healthy perspective.
  • Have discussions and difficult conversations with anyone.
  • Establish stronger relationships.

That’s because your level of understanding, empathy, humor, and compassion increases. You view yourself and others with less judgment.

What’s the relationship between emotional well-being and health?

Everything in your life — emotional, social, spiritual, physical, and intellectual — connects in a state of well-being. For example, walking just 10-15 minutes a day gives your brain a boost. That means more energy, awareness, and a healthier outlook on life. Because exercise of any sort balances your dopamine and serotonin levels, it also improves your sleep and reduces stress and anxiety. All of this can make you better equipped to manage your feelings and emotions.

Each area of your well-being has the potential to impact other areas. Many research studies focus on how poor mental well-being negatively impacts physical health — leading to an increased risk in cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. And there is an emerging set of data that is focusing on the effects of positive well-being.

For example, in a PhD project involving mental health and life stories, Rikke Jensen found a compelling connection between what you say about yourself and your experience of well-being. She asked 259 adults to describe up to ten specific memories in their life stories and answer questions about whether the events were related to positive or negative aspects of who they were. She found that life stories dominated by positive events and connections were related to higher subjective well-being, while life stories dominated by negative events and connections were related to lower subjective well-being.

It makes sense that your stories reflect what you’re feeling about yourself, your health, and how you relate to others. Consider that the next time you share what happened in your day. Take control of your emotional well-being by focusing on the positive emotions you felt, and processing and learning from any negative experiences.

What are some emotional well-being examples?

Strong emotional well-being means you’re prepared to face events that may or may not be in your control. When faced with a challenging situation, you might use one of these strategies to bring yourself into a frame of mind that allows you to manage your emotions.

You breathe, ground yourself, and pause

In a stressful situation, this simple three-step process can help you better control your emotions.

  1. Breathe. When you breathe deeply, you send a message to your brain that helps you calm down and relax.
  2. Ground yourself. Hold a pen. Grab the edge of a desk. Feel the floor under your feet. You return to the present moment and away from your challenging thoughts.
  3. Pause. Wait. Now consider, “What do I really want to say?” When you know the words that will express what you need to communicate, you are in a state of emotional well-being.

You respond instead of react

To respond is to exercise emotional intelligence. To react is to be emotional. So how do you consistently respond instead of react? Begin by slowing down the process.

Responding means you think through what you want to have happen in an interaction or conflict. You are measured, thoughtful, and allow creative ideas to enter the process.

Reacting, on the other hand, is typically immediate, without thought, and often results in a negative outcome.

You question your thoughts

The latest scientific research finds that the average person has more than six-thousand thoughts every day. The next time a thought challenges your emotional well-being, follow a pattern by self-Inquiry teacher Byron Katie and ask yourself these four questions:

  1. Is it true? Consider whether the thought reflects how you really feel. For example, if you think, “My life is a disaster right now,” consider whether you truly feel that way.
  2. Is it absolutely true? Go deeper, open your mind, and question what you think you know. If, after the first question, you thought, “Yes, my life is truly a disaster,” consider why you think that. Are there perhaps just a few things you could change, and can you find some things are going well?
  3. How do I feel when I think that thought? Consider the emotions and feelings that come along with a negative thought. For example, when you think your life is a disaster, you might feel hopeless, anxious, or melancholy.
  4. Who would I be without that thought? Now, imagine your life without that negative thought. For example, you might be happier, more motivated, and more focused if you thought your life was wonderful. Consider which thoughts and feelings you prefer and make a conscious decision to focus on that.

To wrap up this practice, use the final step of turning around the initial thought that challenged your well-being. Come up with three reasons why your new thought might be true. The practice of questioning and then turning your thoughts around offers you a concrete way to return to a state of emotional well-being.

How can you improve your emotional well-being? Here are 8 tips:

Your range of emotions—and how you manage them—influences your emotional health. Here are eight ways you can control your emotions and feelings, and stay resilient:

  1. Move your body. Do some sort of physical activity every 90 minutes. Exercise. Dance. Fold laundry. Weather permitting, get outside. Walk around the block. Run. Visit a park.
  2. Establish a routine. Create a schedule that balances the work you do with the life you want. Set time for your meetings. Block space to set goals. Create room to read. Cook a new dish. Listen to music.
  3. Connect with others. Love on your family. Check in with those who support you. Ask for help. Learn something out of your comfort zone. Spend time with someone who you respect.
  4. Forgive. Forgive others and forgive yourself. Forgiveness frees you to keep your power. Forgiveness opens the path to live in the moment. Forgiveness allows for growth and happiness.
  5. Do something for others. Offer to do something for someone you know or don’t know, for which you cannot be repaid. Pick up groceries for a neighbor. Volunteer online. Send a thank you note.
  6. Sleep. Healthy sleep gives your body the chance to repair itself. Sleep refreshes your brain to manage your memories and process information. You wake up in a better mood.
  7. Be kind to yourself. What gives you joy? Where are you most at peace? When do you have space to be you? As you are kind to yourself, you will want to extend that kindness beyond yourself.
  8. Be self-aware. Notice the thoughts, actions, habits, and character traits that serve you well. And when you spot what needs to change, you’ll be ready. You will simply know.

Final thoughts on emotional well-being

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” – Lao Tzu

You become more resilient as you encounter and master any situation. Whenever you have doubts, and you will, remember that you have everything you need to take care of your emotional well-being.

You will bounce back.

Lois Melkonian, Better Up Fellow Coach (, PCC, CBC