Some people think that emotional well-being is being in a neutral or positive state all the time. Some people think that emotional well-being is not letting emotions affect them. But that is not what emotional well-being is all about.
Emotional well-being is about knowing yourself to be the master of your emotions, and knowing what your emotions are saying to you. We have different emotions, and different situations call for different emotions to be expressed. Just like the Inside Out movie, ‘Joy’ does not have to call the shots all the time.
People are often unable to deal with emotions. On one extreme, some suffer from emotional outbursts. On the other, people suppress their emotions, thinking that they should not feel negatively. Worse, they might not even be aware that they have emotions.
Emotions are like a language. They can be learned and mastered. Here is how:
- Be honest with yourself.
People are sometimes unable to deal with their emotions because they don’t even recognise the existence of their emotions in the first place. Some people are more emotionally expressive, while others numb themselves. Being honest with yourself about whatever emotion you’re feeling is essential.
- Accept your emotions.
It is difficult to accept negative emotions like grief, sadness, frustration, and jealousy. Since nobody ever taught us how to deal with negative emotions, we do not know how to handle them. So when they come up, we suppress or ignore them. But the key emotional well-being is to accept these negative emotions and allow yourself to feel and express them.
- Express the emotions.
Create support structures and safe places that allow you to express your emotions. Whether it is through talking to another person, or through creative means, realise that your emotions need an outlet for release. You can create these outlets for yourself, either by finding a safe spot where you can be alone, through supportive relationships, or through art.
- Identify emotional triggers.
Learn to observe your own emotional triggers. For example, what causes you to feel angry? Is it a specific type of incident, e.g. someone not keeping their word? Once you’ve identified the emotional triggers, stay aware of when these triggers occur, and your emotional reactions to them. You can then make a conscious choice about how you want to react.
- Resolve the root of the trigger.
To lessen emotional triggers and reactions, you’ll need to resolve emotions from the past. We have triggers because we once had intense emotional reactions to painful experiences as children. At that time, we were unable to sufficiently understand and deal with the emotions. So they become wounds we carry around. For example, when Ron was a kid, his mother caned him whenever he did badly on an exam. As an adult, Ron now feels wrecked with fear and shame when he encounters failure. Through understanding and letting go of past traumas, you can become less emotionally attached to the pain of the past.