Why Bother With Emotional Wellness?

Why Bother With Emotional Wellness? 

Our mental wellness includes taking care of all the different aspects of our lives—the emotional and physical self, the spiritual, intellectual, and social self as well as our environmental, interpersonal and occupational structures. We are complex creatures and when all of our systems work in unison with one one another, the result is mental stability. But when they are not integrated and instead run incongruent to one another, chaos reigns. 

Though each of these areas of our mental wellness work together, I decided to break them apart in order to explain each one individually over the course of the next eight blogs. I know this is the better thing to do than to just dump this big idea of mental wellness into the lap of my audience and then leave the load and move on! 

            Getting to Know Ourselves

The easiest way to “test” if we are flourishing in the area of healthy emotions is to ask, “How satisfied, joyous or purposeful do I feel most of the time?” When we begin to take note of our feelings— grumpy, growly, snarky or snippy, then we can begin to make changes. Until then, we will most likely just continue to blame our mom, or someone else for how horrible, awful and no good we feel. 

 I did not grow up in an emotionally healthy or emotionally intelligent household. Discussing how I felt about something was never an issue because no one ever invited me to discuss how I felt. Instead, I learned how to survive by avoiding others when they were angry and stuffing any unacceptable feelings. But emotions are not something we can push down before they begin to push back in some way. Over the long haul, my buried emotions turned into high levels of anxiety and avoiding others because they were angry loaded me down with fear. 

But change began when I started listening to how I felt. Instead of ignoring the churning and burning inside my gut or the thoughts racing through my brain, I started to ask myself some questions. What made me feel edgy? Was it legitimate? Was I really in danger? With time and lots of patience, I became more aware of my patterns, of the ebb and flow of my feelings and just how many different emotions I could experience on any given day. My emotions have something to tell  me and listening to them is the best way to become acquainted with them. 

But being emotionally well isn’t just about knowing myself better, it also makes me more savvy about the feelings of others. And being savvy about the feelings of others allows me to show them empathy. 

So why bother with emotional wellness? Our emotions are part of who we are. The better we listen to what they have to tell us will only make us emotionally intelligent, and dispel the dangers that go along with being emotionally unintelligent. 

 

Why Bother Growing Your Emotional Intelligence?

Why Bother Growing Your Emotional Intelligence?

My mother had a funny way of offering advice to me. Oftentimes, she would cautiously open my bedroom door where I sequestered myself during my teen years, and set a newspaper article on my dresser. Like “Thing” from Adam’s Family, her hand would slide through the crack in the doorway, set an article down and then withdraw, without a word. 

Her method of communication bothered me somewhat and for that reason, I rarely read any of the items she left for me. But titles such as, “Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk,” and “Don’t Make Mountains Out of Molehills,” told me she was at least aware of my emotional state at the time.

        Good Intentions

I do not doubt my mother’s good intentions. She observed my moods, mostly indignation, an ill temper and silence and tried, in her own way, to help me. But, placing an article on my dresser with my name scrolled across the top in hopes that it would urge me toward understanding my emotions and grow toward a happier disposition only fueled my exasperation. What I needed from her was a good conversation about how sometimes emotions can be messy, making us feel awkward, uncomfortable and out-of-sorts. But she and I were a lot alike— we were both emotionally illiterate. 

Emotions were never a topic anyone in my family spoke about. No one knew how to identify them or name them. We all wanted to be happy, lighthearted, full and gleeful gladness, but sometimes anger, sadness, and disappointment crept in too. 

Feeling these “darker” emotions confounded me and like dirty laundry, they accumulated into piles. Though I attempted to kick the mounds out of my way, it only made things messier. 

Eventually, I grew into adulthood and discovered some things about emotions. First of all, they are not something we can ignore or disregard. They come with our humanness and they tell us quite a bit about ourselves if we listen to them.  

Our emotions need our attention. They require time and patience. But as we take the time to sort through our “dirty laundry”  we become more intelligent about what makes us feel the way we do. When I’m angry, it is usually because I feel threatened and when I am sad it is because I’ve been disappointed by someone.  Being aware of these feelings builds a bridge to understanding myself. But, first I have to notice the emotion. Recognizing what is going on inside me and why, gives me the power to choose how I respond. I can shift to thinking differently and thinking  differently makes all the difference, it makes me intelligent. 

But being more aware of how I feel isn’t just about knowing myself better, it also makes me a little more savvy about the feelings of others. When a close friend is angry, I won’t be handing them an article about how to control their anger. Instead, I’ll validate that it makes sense they’d feel what they are feeling. Acknowledging the feelings of others helps them become more intelligent about their emotions too. 

So why bother growing our emotional intelligence?  It is worth it to be emotionally intelligent because our emotions are meant to tell us what we need to know, if we listen. 

 

Why Bother With Your Emotions?

Why Bother With Your Emotions?

For the longest time, I thought sad, mad, and glad were the only emotions I had, with mad as the dominant one. But recently, as I went through my day I perceived a smorgasbord of  feelings; energetic, tired, confused, impatient, delighted, relaxed, sad, empathetic, angry, hopeful, curious, calm, competitive, anxious, playful, humored, concerned, cautious, hurried and worried. 

What I noted was that I have become more emotionally intelligent than I used to be. And for this I am grateful.

Growing Your Emotional Intelligence

I did not grow up in an emotionally intelligent household. I was never taught to be intuitive about my emotions, or why they were important. Instead, I grew up around adults who displayed their anger by yelling, stomping their feet, and hurling objects through the air. Yet, no one ever spoke about their anger. No one ever mentioned the energy that anger produced inside of them. No one mentioned that turning anger inward led to depression. No one said anything. 

Sadness, like anger, was also present in my family, but was not a topic that anybody discussed. So, whenever I felt sad, I didn’t know what to do with the sadness I felt. I just knew I did not like the feeling and tried hard to ignore it. Happiness, lightheartedness and gladness were welcomed by everyone, but other feelings were ignored. By the time I left home I’d come to the conclusion that it was better to deny my emotions than to acknowledge that they existed. 

But, emotions are not something that can be ignored. We were born with them. They are natural and come and go throughout the day.  And, I’ve learned that they tell me something about myself. 

Learning to listen to what I feel is a process. But the process started with listening. When I’d get angry, I noted who or what made me angry. When I was sad, I paid attention to what made me sad.  Being aware of how I felt when I felt it, was the first step.

The next step was more painful; watching myself respond. When I’m angry, my anger, like a surge of power, can be harmful.  When I am sad I resort to pouting like a ten-year-old and alienate myself. When I am worried, I am preoccupied, unfocused and unproductive. But knowing what I am like in response to an emotion, liberates me. I don’t have to resort to that behavior. Instead, I can do something different and doing something different makes all the difference, it makes me intelligent. 

But being more aware of how I feel isn’t just about knowing myself better, it also makes me a little more savvy about the feelings of others. For instance, I know when one of my students is angry, when my husband is hurting or when a friend is lonely. Acknowledging the feelings of others help them become more intelligent about their emotions too. 

So why bother with our emotions? Without a frontal lobotomy we have to do something with them. If we are willing to learn from them, they are willing to teach us something.