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Your thoughts and emotions can affect your health, and it’s important to recognise and be aware of the effect they have—not only on each other, but also on our bodies, behaviour, and relationships.
Being emotionally healthy does not mean you should be happy all the time. It simply means that you are aware of your emotions and can deal with them, whether they are positive or negative. Emotionally healthy people still feel stress, anger, and sadness. However, they know how to manage their negative feelings.
Feelings become unhealthy when they are excessive, irrational, ongoing, distressing or begin interfering with your daily life.
Scientists don’t yet fully understand the biological mechanisms at work, but they know that negative feelings like stress, sadness, and worry can cause a spike in the body’s production of the hormone cortisol, which suppresses the immune system.
Depression, pessimism and apathy affect our health in several ways. ‘Low mood is linked to low levels of serotonin and dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain,’ says London GP Dr Jane Flemming. ‘Serotonin plays a role in regulating pain perception and could be the reason why 45% of patients with depression also suffer aches and pains.’
Suppressing your emotions is not good for your mental or physical health. It’s like pressing on the accelerator and brakes at the same time, creating an internal pressure cooker.
Emotional stress from suppressed emotions has been linked to mental illness and physical problems like heart disease, intestinal problems, headaches, insomnia and autoimmune disorders.
Scientists now know that positive feelings can have healing effects on the body. Researchers studying everything from the flu to HIV continue to find evidence that mindset can influence immunity and the rate at which people heal from injuries and illness.
There are many ways to improve and maintain good emotional health. Here are just a few:
Be honest and open with yourself
Having self-compassion and a more realistic perspective that negative emotions are inevitable and natural can be helpful. Your emotions are messengers trying to send you information. The sooner you accept that and listen to what they have to say, the better off you will be.
Be aware of your emotions and reactions
Notice what makes you sad, frustrated, or angry and try to address those things in your life.
Express your feelings
Let people close to you know when something is bothering you. Keeping feelings of sadness or anger inside adds to stress.
Think before you act
Emotions can be powerful. Give yourself time to think and be calm before you say or do something you might regret.
Try to change situations which cause you stress. Learn relaxation methods to cope with stress. These could include deep breathing, meditation, yoga and exercise.
If you want to take better care of yourself mentally and emotionally, start with the simple act of being more loving and compassionate to yourself.