We human beings are primarily emotional creatures. Emotion health drives most of our decisions. If you doubt that, consider the fact that emotional appeal consistently sells more than logical appeal.
This is why we at the Journey Principles Institute consider emotional health the most foundational principle in the 8 Pillars of Life. In order to be truly successful, you must be emotionally intelligent and emotionally healthy.
The Importance of Emotional Health
Western society has trained us to ignore our feelings and bottle them up rather than explore, express, and understand them. While this can have short-term benefits, over time this worldview is unsustainable. Your emotional health includes your beliefs, which in turn determine your actions. It also affects your physical health, your relationships, and your overall performance. Ignoring your fears, traumas and heartfelt desires will ultimately lead to burn out, low self esteem, strained relationships, and lack of fulfillment.
The vast majority of people ignore their emotional health altogether, and I believe it’s why the vast majority of people never change and experience increasing success.
How to Maximize Your Emotional Health
So if our inner world is so important, how do we improve it? For many of us, a few emotions by themselves can seem overwhelming and difficult to understand. This can make the thought of learning to shift our emotional responses and become more prone to positive emotions seem impossible. Fortunately, it’s easier than you think. You can maximize your emotional health through three practices: self-awareness, shifting your environment, and replacing negative beliefs with positive ones. There’s so much more to be said about all of this than I could say in one blog post, so here we will focus on principles relating to the first two.
1. Determine Your Current Level of Emotional Health
To maximize your emotional health, you’ll need to calibrate your current level. To do this, I recommend grading yourself on a scale of 1-10 on the following questions. Once you’ve done this, ask multiple people you trust to do the same:
- Overall emotional maturity
- Ability to be confronted and respond well
- Ability to stay present and focused
When you’ve selected the people you’d like to answer these questions, I recommend sending them an email. Explain that you’re trying to grow in emotional intelligence and that you’re asking a select number of people you know and trust to give you feedback. Be sure to ask for their complete honesty. Encourage them to take their time in answering, but also give them a date about two weeks away from the email when you are hoping to get a response. Ask them to provide examples if any come to mind.
If you rate yourself in any area significantly higher or lower than how your trusted friends and family would rate you, then it’s especially important to dive deeper into that phenomena. What do they see from the outside that you don’t? What does it say about you if you consistently see yourself as better or worse off in your emotional health than those around you?
If you are harder on yourself than others are on you, you likely have an issue with self-esteem and are holding yourself back with negative self-talk. In contrast, if you believe you’re emotionally glowing while others see you as average or below average, then you may need to grow in self-awareness, self-honesty, and vulnerability in order to improve your relationships and achieve your true potential. Regardless, don’t beat up on yourself with whatever you discover. Everyone has blind spots, and everyone has room to grow in their inner world.
2. Raise Your Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is a critical aspect of emotional intelligence, a.k.a. EQ. It’s not only critical to your emotional health overall, but it’s also critical to your learning and growth in any area. If you don’t know your strengths, weaknesses, needs, and patterns, you can’t make consistent progress, much less track it.
The above exercise is actually a great way to grow in self-awareness. Another is to develop a habit of checking in with yourself regularly and identifying what specific emotion you’re feeling in the moment. Label it and ask yourself why you feel that way. When you identify why, write down the emotion and what triggered it. Review these notes daily or weekly and look for patterns. Share your findings with someone you trust and ask what they see. Make this a discipline in your life and you will be amazed what you discover.
3. Prioritize Self-Care
Some people find their identity in being needed, which can manifest as taking care of other people so often that you forget to take care of yourself. Others take pride in being taught and ignoring the things their body and soul are crying out for: rest, fun, sleep, encouragement, healthy interactions with others, proper nutrition, exercise, etc. Neither of these extremes are good. If you identify with either of them, you must learn to take care of yourself. The reality is that if you don’t, you’ll eventually burn yourself out. At that point, you’ll not only feel emotionally drained and miserable, but you also won’t be much good to anyone else. Moreover, you’ll be much more likely to get sick or experience a lasting health problem. This is why a key part of emotional health is knowing your limits and practicing self care.
So how do you start taking care of yourself? First, understand that you actually need to put your overall needs first in order to be useful to others. It may sound selfish, but the truth is that if you can’t love yourself, you won’t be able to love other people. At best, you’ll be able to serve other people in the short-run for the wrong reasons, which is unsustainable.
Second, commit to developing at least one daily habit that restores your mind, body or soul. This will be something enjoyable that you do for its own sake. It may be walking outside or journaling. It could be reading or singing. Regardless, make sure that you leave your phone and/or electronic devices out of it if possible.
4. Remove Toxic People from your Life
Toxic people are relentlessly negative. They’re consistently ungrateful and operate out of victimhood. Common traits among toxic people include addictions, neediness, manipulation, a critical spirit, and an inability to take responsibility for their actions or admit fault. You may be tempted to try and “rescue” these people, and this is in fact what toxic people are trying to get you to do. However, you need to take the opposite approach and distance yourself from them. They will drain your emotional health with their negativity, tempt you into negative ways of thinking, and even take advantage of you.
It’s important when helping others to remember that you can’t outwork anyone on their problems, especially when their real problem is something they’re refusing to address. Investing in toxic people is a lose-lose situation, so if you identify these people in your life, limit their access to you and spend as little time with them as possible. Unless they’re family (and in some cases even when they are), you should probably stop interacting with them altogether.
5. Get Little Wins to Grow in Confidence
One could argue that emotional health is largely about removing fear from your life. Almost every bad decision or character flaw could be traced back to a specific fear that developed from a painful experience. Part of removing fear from our lives is replacing it with confidence, and nothing builds confidence quite like positive experiences. These don’t need to be huge events or seismic accomplishments. In fact, it’s better to get wins consistently and steadily, until winning becomes what you expect.
One key way to gain small wins is to focus on one or two new habits at a time. Don’t overextend yourself and try to improve every area of your life at once. Instead, gain momentum in one and let that victory carry over to the others.
6. Operate in Your Gifts and Talents
Nothing feels better than being who you truly are, and part of being who you are is doing the things you were made to do. It’s critical that you discover what activities you enjoy and naturally excel in to maximize your emotional health. It could be building something with your hands or painting. It could be pushing your body physically through running, hiking, swimming or lifting weights. You may be the type of person that thrives on new experiences, or you may enjoy learning new information through reading and watching how-to Youtube videos.
Whatever gives you energy and joy, do as much of that as you can, and make it part of your career if at all possible. In addition, identify those things that you aren’t good at and find other people to do those things for you. It’s likely that someone who is more skilled at those things also enjoys them, meaning that delegating these activities is a win-win.
7. Make Time for Weekly Replenishment and Rest
Take one day off per week. Make it about self-care. On this day, wake up when you want and spend that day doing things you enjoy. It could be operating from your gifts and talents, spending time with people you love, or nothing at all. If you actually do this, you will be shocked how much more rejuvenated you’ll be during the rest of your week.
You Owe it to the World to Be Happy and Healthy
When you experience peak emotional health, you are at your best. Period. You become more efficient and more pleasant to be around. Others are blessed by you, and your life becomes enjoyable. Don’t make the devastating mistake of neglecting your inner world.
If you want to maximize your emotional health and take it more seriously, I’ve got great news. Right now we’re giving our entire library of E books for free. These are resources we at the Journey Principles Institute have designed to make personal growth practical and achievable. They’re also concise, short, and jam-packed, because we want to save you time and accelerate your transformation.