Written by Mike Oppland, Positive Psychology Program

Emotions can be wonderfully joyous expressions however they can also be detrimental to our health and well-being. The big questions when it comes to emotions are why are they sometimes very difficult to control and how can we learn to foster emotions in a skilled and healthy manner?

In order to answer these question it is important to determine exactly what emotional health is.

Defining Emotional Health

The Help Guide (2016) states that emotionally healthy people are those who can control their emotions and behaviour, who show resilience in troubling situations and can build strong, lasting relationships (The Help Guide, 2016). Emotional health is not merely the dearth of mental health. Just as the absence of depression does not mean that someone is happy or emotionally healthy.

It is also important to note that like any desired state emotional health requires dedication and effort. A healthy emotional state doesn’t just happen (The Help Guide, 2016).

The Characteristics of Emotional Health

Emotional health is steeped in positive characteristics, meaning that positive emotions are pertinent to achieving emotional health.

The Help Guide (2016) describes emotionally healthy people as having a sense of contentment, a zest for life, the ability to deal with stress and obstacles, a sense of meaning and purpose in life, flexibility to learn and adapt, a balance between work and play, the ability to create and maintain relationships, and self-confidence and high self-esteem.

Positive psychologists have been studying emotional health for over four decades now and believe that emotional health is more than just optimism, rather it is an authentic understanding of what truly makes us happier (Vann 2009).

What it is not: Busting the Myths

Giving yourself the freedom to experience negative emotions and knowing that this will not affect your overall emotional health and your happiness, is completely healthy and necessary. Hiding these emotions for fear they will ruin your overall contentment is actually counterproductive.

This is one of the big misconceptions about emotional health:

Being emotionally healthy does not imply the absence of all negative emotions and faking positive emotions when they are not genuinely felt is not a representation of emotional health. This is a lesson I have learnt during my personal journey.

It is when emotions occur out of mindless reactions that emotional health is ultimately tested. I still struggle with this from time to time because for so many years I was so used to reacting emotionally to anything that made me feel bad. When we consistently blame other people and situations for the emotions we are experiencing we are not emotionally healthy and without emotional awareness, we can live out our entire lives never truly comprehending or achieving emotional health.

Personally, I belief that emotional health is more than obtaining high levels of self-confidence and self-esteem as stated in the above definition. I think it goes one step further; emotional health is reached when you learn to accept yourself, especially in those instances where you make mistakes and encounter setbacks in life.

Putting it into Practice

An important point of clarification is the difference between mental illness and emotional health. There are many people who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses that require more than what positive psychology can offer. Whilst positive psychology can have a strong influence on emotional health, mental illness often requires multidisciplinary, long term intervention strategies of which positive psychology is just one component.  This does not mean that someone suffering from mental illness cannot achieve emotional health, it just means they may require more input over a longer period on time.

While positive psychology aims to uncover methods to achieve emotional health and well-being for all. It is important to understand that obtaining emotional health is the subjective quest of each individual and it is by no means an easy task. It takes commitment, practice and persistence.

Keywords; emotional health, well-being

About the Author

Mike Oppland graduated from Calumet College in June 2006 with a B.A. in Business Management. Mike is co-founder and co-director of xpertcoaching.com along with his twin brother Dan. Their goal is to spread their love of basketball as well as personal development with others.