As someone who believes in treating ourselves as a ‘whole’ being I start by saying that emotional wellbeing is one part of our whole wellbeing, mental, physical, spiritual and emotional. And even though I have a specific definition the ability to be in emotional wellbeing is interconnected with the other areas.
I believe that emotional wellbeing is the ability to feel, understand and respond to our emotions in the moment so that we can move through them with flow. This allows us to feel good about ourselves and have enjoyable relationships with family, friends and our environment.
According to Wikipedia:
Emotional well-being refers to the emotional quality an individual experiences. Emotional well-being is influenced by a variety of demographic, economic, and situational factors. For example, the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, lowered emotional well-being by 74%. The implications of decreased emotional well-being are related to mental health concerns such as stress, depression and anxiety.
Unfortunately, many of us grew up without learning to respect our emotions for the rich source of information they provide. Instead, we often learned to fear our emotions or to judge them as bad or unnecessary and were encouraged to suppress or ignore them.
When suppressed our emotions intensify, and they can either explode or implode. We may inappropriately overly express our emotions or internalise them. Either of which can lead to ill health.
“Never apologise for being sensitive or emotional. It’s a sign that you have a big heart, and that you aren’t afraid to let others see it. Showing your emotions is a sign of strength.”
Suppressing our emotions over prolonged periods can lead to illnesses such as headaches, stomach aches, muscular pains, anxiety and depression. Ironically suppressing emotions not only prevents us from receiving its intended information but promotes the emotional states they were meant to avoid!
A recent study by Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester showed people who bottled up their emotions increased their chance of premature death from all causes by more than 30%, with their risk of being diagnosed with cancer increasing by 70%.
How can you flow with your emotions?
In my definition I described emotional wellbeing as being able to feel, understand and respond in the moment to our emotions, so that we can flow through them and not get stuck in them. This is the key to being able to flow with our emotions, both the ‘good feeling’ ones and the ‘uncomfortable’ ones!
We tend to categorise emotions, but no emotion is good or bad. Each is equally useful in providing information.
It’s just as important to acknowledge our ‘good feeling’ emotions when they arise. Reggie Ray, a professor of Buddhist studies at Naropa University says: “When we are blissful and happy we go along to a certain point and then pull back because we are afraid – perhaps it is too much and we feel we are losing our sense of self, or perhaps we are afraid it will slip away. This is because true bliss and happiness, perhaps more so than pain are the negation of the human ego.”
Linda Kohanov suggests that’s it equally important to feel, understand and respond to our ‘good feeling emotions’ when she writes: “The ego knows that intensely ecstatic experiences are just as likely to burn out of control and so it struggles to keep everything at a nice safe, even keel.”
First step to Emotional Wellbeing – FEEL
Feel your emotion and by that I mean to notice the physical sensation you experience in your body when you acknowledge the presence of an emotion.
For example, if you feel angry, you might notice that your muscles tighten in your neck, shoulders or arms, you breathe may change, your body may become hot.
If you’re frightened or vulnerable your heart rate may start to race, your breathing pattern may change, your legs tense (ready to run).
If you’re sad perhaps you feel a heaviness in your chest, your eyes may water or your shoulders droop forwards.
Allowing yourself to acknowledge and accept these physical sensations is the first step to emotional wellbeing. At some point you may have learned to disconnect from your true feelings and so this may not be as easy as it sounds!
Or your fear of not being able to control your emotions may become a block. But, once you can allow your feelings to flow through you, they begin to dissipate on their own.
“The reason we suffer from our emotion is not because of the emotion itself, but because of our resistance to that particular emotion.”
Second step to Emotional Wellbeing – UNDERSTAND
Many of us are not taught that our emotions have a purpose and a message for us! Why then would we listen to them? Much better to ignore them!
However, learning to be curious about your emotions and what they are trying to tell you, is the second step to emotional wellbeing.
As you allow yourself to feel the emotion, simply ask what information it has for you and be open to what comes. I have a whole chart of emotions and their meanings, which was created by Linda Kohanov (and which she shares in her book The Power of the Herd: A Nonpredatory Approach to Social Intelligence, Leadership and Innovation), but equally I believe that you have this wisdom within, if you listen.
For example, if you feel angry, your body tightens, and you become hot and bothered – ask yourself what that means. It’s likely that you notice someone has overstepped one of your boundaries. Perhaps they took something without asking, encroached upon your time or personal space, said something offensive or they may have shamed you.
Your anger is simply a message to alert you that a boundary has been crossed and that you need to re-establish it.
If your feeling is fear, your heart races, your legs tense and the message is that there is a threat, and you need to move to safety. Perhaps you are walking along the road with your dog as a car comes too quickly around the corner and is heading towards you. The message is that you need to run, jump or dive out of the path of the oncoming car!
“Emotions flow in and out, they don’t define us”
Third step to Emotional Wellbeing – RESPOND IN THE MOMENT
When you notice your emotion in its purest form (i.e. as soon as it first arises) you are in the calmest state to be able to feel, understand and respond (the thing which we are most frightened of doing if we have been taught to fear or suppress them!). If you leave it to intensify it’s possible that you are by then engulfed with the emotion and it explodes or you may disassociate, either way it’s more difficult to respond appropriately.
When you respond and alleviate the emotion as soon as you feel it, your body sensations will begin to dissipate on their own and you will flow through your emotion.
For example, when you respond to your anger by identifying what boundary has been crossed and then restoring it, you can flow through your emotion and have your space respected. If someone comes into your office when you are focusing on writing an email, you can let them know you are not available, but tell them when you are free to have a conversation. If someone turns up a ½ hr earlier than expected and you are not ready to receive them, you can ask them to wait.
As you take these actions your body sensations dissipate, your shoulders and your breathing relax. If, however, you suppress your anger and do not set a boundary, your anger can intensify into rage, which you may direct at the person crossing your boundary or even at an innocent bystander. Alternatively, if you are unable to show your rage outwardly it may internalise and you become apathetic, and even ill.
In the example for fear which I shared above, as soon as you run, jump or dive out of the path of the oncoming car your body will gradually start calming down and your heart rate will return to normal. It’s likely that you would then experience other emotions as you reviewed the event! (and if so, you can process them in the same way).
Fourth step to Emotional Wellbeing – RETURN TO FLOW
When you can feel, understand and respond to your emotions in the moment you can get back into flow.
I define flow as a state of being in which there is an enjoyable and connected state of mind, body, spirit and emotion.
Emotional Wellbeing is achieved when we can allow this natural state of flow to happen, without restricting it, by ignoring or suppressing our emotions. And then we can do much to enhance and encourage an ever-greater ability to spend more time in ‘flow’.
“Let your emotions flow”
What is Emotional Wellbeing Coaching?
Emotional wellbeing coaching creates the space for you to live a happier, more peaceful and fulfilling life. By learning to be true to yourself through the four key elements of emotional wellbeing, you can develop healthier relationships, feel lighter in yourself and experience real joy in life.
What makes my coaching unique is the wisdom I’ve learnt from a lifetime connecting with horses and has shaped a truly holistic approach which emphasises the importance of body, emotion, mind and spirit being in alignment.
One part of Emotional Wellbeing Coaching is a process which supports you to find a state of emotional flow, when you have been ignoring or suppressing your feelings and now notice that you are stuck, disconnected or out of balance with your emotions.
You may be anxious, stressed, ‘too’ emotional, over emotional, depressed or disassociated. Or you may not notice any of these signs, but you feel unhappy and are unable to find joy in your life. When you learn to feel, understand and respond in the moment you can flow with your emotions again.
Generally, there is a VERY good reason that you learnt to suppress or ignore your emotions, a time when it was necessary for your survival or safety or in order to receive love or acceptance.
Emotional wellbeing coaching supports you to identify and break free from past conditioning and to release the underlying trauma so that you can freely express your true self. It helps you connect the dots between your physical feelings, your emotional awareness, your psychological understanding and your heart’s desires or life purpose, so that you can live life with more freedom and joy.