Emotional well-being relates to a number of things, some of which include self-acceptance, autonomy, positive relations within yourself and others, a sense of purpose in life, environmental mastery, ability to cope with stress, understanding and adapting to change. Everyday emotional well-being is about how we feel, think and behave. For this reason it is important to be aware of our emotional responses and how we act upon them. But how many of us can say we are emotionally intelligent? How many of us are aware of the influences these emotions play on our life, in terms of our health and well-being? Why are people constantly unhappy and negative about their lives, and about how they feel about themselves?
So how can we manage our emotions so as to affect our physical and psychological well-being in a positive manner?
It is now known that our thoughts, emotions and energy levels are all interlinked and not only shape the way we feel but they also influence the body and vice versa. Feeling good, thinking positive and enthusiastic have a positive effect on the body. Consistent negative thinking, despair, and prolonged stress all cause disturbances in the body’s energy field and if not dealt with will eventually manifest as a physical symptom in the body.
Friedman & Kewley’s research with people who experienced chronic anxiety, long periods of sadness and pessimism, prolonged stress and tension were all found to have double the risk of disease. At Yale it was concluded that anger in particular is said to have strong scientific links to heart diseases and double the risk of heart attacks / arrest in people who already had experienced heart attacks. Hence better management of your upset feelings such as anger, anxiety, stress and depression is a positive form of disease prevention. It is important to note, that I am not stressing that one should suppress their negative emotions, as this can also cause as much damage and magnify such feelings in the heat of the moment. The message here is to sit with the emotion, acknowledge, understand the feeling, accept the situation, learn from it and move on.
Feelings express information about situations. These are obtained through both conscious and sub-conscious levels and expressed via neuro-chemicals which are found throughout the body. For example, fear is triggered in the presence of a threat or danger in order to anticipate injury. However, this can also be triggered in the absence of danger through thoughts, imaging or by watching a horror film deliberately induced. Our thoughts and perception of the world are constantly creating associations with these feelings. A feeling becomes an emotion when a belief is attached to the cause of the situation. Emotions cause a person to be more inclined to believe something, whether there is evidence to prove the contrary or not. These beliefs lie in the person’s desires or fears, but may also be linked to interpersonal relationship or group influences.
Each emotion has a unique characteristic, which is expressed when triggered by certain perceptions, people, situations and incidences. As a result, emotions distort cognitive and decision-making processes. We are constantly experiencing and expressing different emotions everyday, which profoundly influences our perception of the world around us and how we respond to it. How we deal with and respond to these emotions determines and somewhat dictates our emotional well-being, this is called Emotional Intelligence.
Over time habitual responses to certain emotions create neurological patterning in the brain. This neuro-network is built up and integrated into a complicated system of associations with thoughts, feelings, memories and emotions. Each time the same thought, emotion or memory is activated the neurons start to build a long term relationship with each other, strengthening the link and over time making it harder to break away. Through self-awareness one is able to recognize and start to deconstruct these patterns, whether it is negative thoughts or behavioural responses.
In addition to the above neurological patterning, scientist Candace Pert in her pioneering research discovered that each feeling or emotion produces a molecule known as neuropeptide. These chemicals are the communication agent between mind and body. Neuropeptides can be found all around the body and binds to the corresponding receptor on the outer surface of every cell. Once the message is received it is then transmitted into the cell’s interior, where a chain of biochemical reactions follows. These biological responses are stored in our cellular memory. By experiencing the same emotion everyday or for a prolonged period of time, we produce more of the corresponding receptor. This means that memory is also encoded at the receptor level. The increase of a certain type of receptor, allows more of the matching emotion to be sensed or experienced. The emotion then acts similar to a drug addiction, where the increase number of receptors will ‘crave’ the corresponding neuropeptide or ’emotion’.
Both Socrates and Freud amongst many other philosophers highlight the importance of emotional intelligence declaring “know thyself”, becoming aware of your feelings as they occur, in other words paying attention to your internal state. Emotional well-being is all about maintaining emotional balance regardless of the situation that arises. It all has to do with awareness, in particularly awareness of the self. So becoming emotionally intelligent, one must start by re-educating the mind to merely observe the emotions, feelings and thoughts, and not to identify with them. One must learn to let them go, be non-judgmental towards them, and detach one-self from any outcomes. In this process self-awareness is crucial in understanding yourself, why you feel the way you feel, why you behave in certain ways and what is your self-talk. Self-acceptance and change can only happen once you know who you are.
Unfortunately emotional well-being is a subject that is not taught to us by our parents or school. We are constantly being told to ‘get over it’, forgive, let go and to control our anger, however we are not taught techniques in which to deal with these emotions, such as resentment or how to reduce anxiety when stressed. Yet understanding and managing our emotions is the key to maintaining a healthy and happier life! We are taught subjects such as algebra that most of us never go on to use again throughout our lives. Emotional Intelligence however, is a fundamental life skill which is never addressed.
Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Emotional Freedom Technique, Hypnosis, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Reiki, Pranic Healing, Magnified Healing, Cranio-sacral therapy, Theta Healing and even simple breathing techniques to name but a few, are all techniques in which to rebalance your body’s energy system when dealing with emotional stress. I believe that one day, ‘Emotional Well-being’ will be an important and better understood concept, and will be a part of everyday life from being integrated into the school curriculum, to the office and home.