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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

15 Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Health

15 Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Health

Our emotional health can be defined in many ways, and because it is subjective and specific to each person, one simple definition doesn’t always cut it. However, we can begin to understand emotional health as it relates to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and how we’re able to best control these when they no longer serve us efficiently.

According to Dan Eisenberg, sports psychologist at OffshoreSportsbooks.com, nearly 18% of the US population experiences an emotional health issue.[1] Emotional health, when left unchecked, manifests in the physical body in the forms of muscle tension, fatigue, and dis-ease. When we’re facing stress, sadness, or anger, embracing habits that teach us how to cope with these emotions and the thoughts that accompany them can be powerfully effective in keeping our entire being strong, happy, and healthy.

1. Talk It Out

One of the quickest ways of releasing pent-up emotions is to talk it out, whether that’s with a friend, family member, or someone neutral, like a therapist or counselor.

Fixing the problem during these conversations is not necessarily the goal; instead, venting or releasing words that surround the problem is one healthy way of expressing how you feel. Usually, solutions arise on their own out of this release, but the sole act of giving a voice to your emotions is a good start.

2. Write It Down

If speaking to someone makes you uncomfortable, writing down your thoughts and emotions as they arise is another healthy habit. This practice of journaling helps you put your words down on paper in a way that is safe, secure, and personal.

It also gives your feelings and thoughts an outlet that you may or may not decide to share with others; but the act of providing that outlet is healthier than keeping feelings bottled up.

3. Meditate

Meditation has long been proven to help reduce stress and tension. In a 2016 study, 76% of people questioned about their meditation practice claimed that it helped their general wellness tremendously, with 60% reporting that it increased their energy, and 50% reporting that it helped their memory and focus.[2]

Sitting down in a meditation practice allows you to observe the feelings and thoughts that come up, and then detach from letting them fester into growing problems. The practice teaches you how to distance yourself from the emotional chaos we tend to find ourselves in, long enough to create space in which to simply be.

Here’s a video to guide you through meditation:

Or you can also take a look at these guides on meditation:

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4. Move Your Body

Whether this is in a yoga practice or a gym exercise routine, moving the body has tremendous ties in how that affects our emotional response, and in turn, health.

Depending on what you may be feeling or going through at the time, stepping into a mindful movement with the body can pull you out of that thinking loop, and back into a physical connection.

As long as you’re mindful and aware of the movements you’re doing, you’re giving your mind something to focus on. Likewise, you’re giving your emotional health a dose of serotonin, the feel-good chemical that contributes to feelings of wellness and general happiness.[3]

You can try this gentle somatic yoga for emotional release:

5. Go Outside

Nature has such a powerful effect on the body, mind, and soul. We spend so much time indoors, because of our jobs, families, responsibilities, and so forth, that we don’t take the time to really tap into the simple idea of being outside.

Whether you make a routine of taking a brief walk outside during your lunch break, or just stepping out to enjoy some fresh air for a few minutes on a park bench nearby, these simple habits, over time, can truly refresh and reset you for prime emotional health.

6. Try Forest Bathing

While we’re on the topic of being outside in nature, forest bathing is an incredible practice to implement. Called Shinrin in Japanese, forest bathing has made its way westward to pull people into the simple union with nature and its many benefits.[4]

Simply find a forest or nearby location where you can get away from the noise of the city – a park, wooded trail, etc. Unplug and leave your phone, camera, and any other technology in the car. As you’re walking, be all there! Listen to the sounds around you, feel your feet on the ground, and become deeply aware of the sensations around you and within you.

This practice is meant to disconnect you from constantly chasing down the future, and put you back into the present moment – the only one that truly matters.

You can learn more about forest bathing in the video below:

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7. Start a Gratitude Journal

It’s so easy to get sucked into the thought loop that we’re not doing enough, or that we have so many items to yet tick off of our to-do list before the day is done. However, this thought loop breeds a thought reality that keeps us chained to anxiety, depression, and a slew of other negative nasties.

In order to tap into all that you have done and accomplished in a single day, begin a gratitude journal. Before you go to sleep at night, write down a list of things and people for which and whom you’re grateful. Be specific and as lengthy as you’d like, and then look over the list to truly embrace all that you do have in your life.

Take a look at this article and find out how to start a gratitude journal: How a Gratitude Journal and Positive Affirmations Can Change Your Life

8. Make Time for Fun and Fun People

We work too hard, and no play really makes for unsteady and unbalanced emotional health. We’re active and social creatures who need to be around others, enjoying the many perks that life has to offer.

Make it a point to schedule fun time with friends, at least once per month. If you schedule it ahead of time and get it on everyone’s calendar, chances are that you won’t get bogged down with other priorities. After all, fun should still be a priority, even in adulthood!

9. Practice Self-Forgiveness with EFT

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a form of psychological acupressure, or also known as Tapping.[5] It has been used to alleviate physical and emotional pain, and works wonders on self-forgiveness.

We’re often too hard on ourselves. In a deadline-demand-driven society, we subconsciously load ourselves up on expectations that lead to failure, disappointment, and then suffering. EFT allows you to tap into the physical meridians where we hold this emotionally manifested pain, in order to release and forgive.

Check out this video on how to do EFT tapping therapy:

10. Set Daily Priorities

When we’re overwhelmed with work, we tend to dive deep into stress. This may result in stressful eating, poor exercise regimens, and an overall lack of motivation and energy. All of this quickly leads back to that same emotional loop of thinking we’re not good enough, not disciplined enough, etc.

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In order to keep this mental loop from spiraling out of control, setting daily priorities is key. This could mean writing down a list of things to get done throughout the day, and then dividing what is a top project for the day, and what can wait.

This type of breakdown also motivates you to keep going, since you’ll be getting the biggest task out of the way first. Don’t forget to celebrate little milestones along the way! Inbox all cleared out? Awesome! Play your favorite energizing song and take a 5-minute break before the next task.

11. Treat Yourself

We easily treat other people, but when it comes to ourselves, that tends to be a harder point to sell. Maintaining health – whether emotional, physical, or otherwise – is a lifelong journey. Who says you can’t reward yourself for all of the hard work you’re putting in?

A treat may look like a weekend getaway to a spa, or simply a nice bubble bath at home, in the peace and quiet of your own home. These rewards need not be expensive or elaborate; but do keep them a priority.

Celebrating yourself every chance you get leads to inspiration and motivation to keep on your health path.

Take a look at these 40 Self Care Techniques To Rejuvenate And Restore Yourself.

12. Travel

Most of us think of travel as something exotic and expensive, and therefore unattainable; but it doesn’t have to be so! Travel can be anything that takes you out of your current usual routine or comfort zone. Maybe taking a new route to work, or checking out that park on the other side of town one weekend that you’ve always wanted to visit – travel is everywhere!

Give yourself permission (and a treat!) to see and experience something new. Oftentimes, these types of experiences shift our perspective, and give us that much-needed connection with ourselves and the world at large.

13. Take a Class, or Learn Something New

Emotional health is all about changing up the routines we’re used to relying on for our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The human mind is at its best when it’s being stimulated, and in what better way to do that than to learn something new.

Think about a class you’ve always been interested in, or a skill you’d like to develop. Check out your local colleges, libraries, or social media for opportunities, classes, or workshops. When we take on a new subject area to learn about, we create new neuropathways in the brain. These, in turn, not only help us refresh our creativity and problem-solving skills, but they also change our brain chemistry and allow us to better respond to life’s many changes.[6]

14. Get Enough Sleep

Ensuring that you’re getting a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night is vital for your physical, emotional, and mental health. In order to be productive and energized to take on your day stems from the type of quality sleep you’re getting at night.

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Are you tossing and turning? Perhaps look at your environment and make necessary changes, like new sheets, better pillow, or arrangement of bed that you have in your room.

Do you wake up throughout the night? Keep a journal nearby and document what happens that wakes you, and what you do right after you’re up. This can help you better observe patterns of wakefulness and what you can do about it.

Remember to also put away your phones and tablets before bedtime, to give the body the necessary “down time” in preparation for sleep.

And consider building a night time routine to help put you to sleep: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

15. Build Resilience for When Things Change

There is one constant in life, and that is that it will constantly change. As humans, we tend to attach ourselves to the control we have over life, but when it changes unexpectedly (in loss of a person or job), we have a hard time grappling with the reality of it all. Building resilience for these changes ensures that we can bounce back from anything that life throws at us.

In Buddhism, one precept sits above all that is focused on this idea of change, and that is impermanence. This doctrine teaches us that everything is temporary – loss, sadness, grief, happiness, anger, etc. Because life ebbs and flows, so does change along with it.

We’re just there to enjoy and witness the ride, and this means practicing detachment from the idea that we have any real control to begin with! This surrender truly becomes our resilience, and enables us to roll with the punches and embrace all that life has to offer, even when it’s hard.

If you want some practical tips to build resilience, take a look at this article: How to Build Resilience to Face What Life Throws at You

Final Thoughts

Emotional health is just as important as mental and physical health. It is, after all, one and the same.

How we react to the many changes in life can be very telling of how healthy we are, emotionally. Thankfully, there are a plethora of simple habits that we can implement today to help us regain footing on the journey that is our whole-self wellness.

More Tips for Strengthening Emotional Health

Featured photo credit: Rebecca Harris via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aleksandra Slijepcevic

Accredited and Certified Vinyasa Yoga Teacher writing for Health & Fitness

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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