Emotional wellbeing can sometimes sound like an abstract concept. It’s about how you think, feel, and experience the world around you. It includes lots of different aspects - your ability to be diplomatic, how you regulate your emotions, your ability to self-reflect and your ability to deal with change, conflict or unhappiness. While some people have better emotional wellbeing than others, no one has perfect emotional wellbeing - we can all improve.
Emotional wellbeing isn’t mental health - although they are often extremely closely linked. Mental health or wellbeing is often related to your personal circumstances at the time, for example bereavement, relationship breakdown, work or housing difficulties. Emotional wellbeing is how you deal with these things - how well you can reflect, regulate your emotions and be resilient. It’s important to remember that resilience is not ignoring your emotions or bottling them up. It’s knowing how to feel them and accept them, but not letting them hurt your ability to function.
Good emotional wellbeing has tangible benefits on both your physical and mental health. It increases self-esteem, productivity, and performance. It helps your blood pressure stay low, keeps your heart rate low, reduces the risk of anxiety and depression, and improves sleep. Happier people live longer, have better immunity to sickness and have a lower risk of depression. Whilst we don’t wish to suggest that unhappiness or emotional difficulties can just be ignored or ‘got over,’ it is important to take small, manageable steps to try and help yourself as much as you can.
Research from the New Economics Foundation has identified five steps that contribute to emotional wellbeing - this theory has since been adopted by the NHS and the Australian government. These are the five steps they found:
Making time for friends and family isn’t shallow or frivolous - friendship and community is a fundamental human need. You can try calling someone instead of sending them an email or text message, asking the cashier in the shop how their day’s going, or getting back in touch with an old friend. It can seem scary at first, but most people want to connect with other people too.
2. Be active
This doesn’t have to mean a run or trip to the gym - just some light stretching or a short walk with a friend can make a world of difference. If you’re living with a disability or long term condition, you can find help on getting active with a disability on the NHS website.
Being present in the moment, or ‘mindful’ is a great way to centre yourself. It’ll help you react more constructively to different, often difficult situations. If you feel your thoughts running away, you can try to notice something you can see, hear, touch, and smell. It can help you place yourself back in the moment.
Learning something new has incredible benefits. It allows you to keep your brain engaged, meaning you reduce your risk of dementia, it can build self-confidence and allow you to meet new people related to your hobby. Learning a new language, musical instrument or skill can open up a world of possibilities - potentially even allow you to develop a new career or move abroad.
Being kind to others can make you happy, and increase your self-esteem. There are lots of options - you can make or buy a small gift for someone you care about, take time to really listen to them about how they’re feeling, or even find somewhere in the local community to volunteer.