jumpstarthealthJump Start Your Emotional Health

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  ~World Health Organization, 1948

By now we all know the importance of taking care of our physical health, but have you been doing enough to maintain a healthy emotional balance? It's scientifically proven that what you're thinking actually affects your physical health as well as your emotional well-being. Ulcers, indigestion, nervousness, high blood pressure and a wide variety of diseases can result from an injured immune system brought on by harmful thought patterns.

Here are a few quick tips to focus on to make sure your emotional health is in balance:

1. Your thoughts guide the emotions that follow

Your emotions can't tell if what you're thinking about is really happening or if it's just an image in your head. Prove this to yourself by thinking back to when you watched a terrifying scene in a movie. Even though you knew what you were watching wasn't actually happening, you were still scared - weren't you? Did you know, about ten minutes after you start to dwell on something, corresponding emotions will follow? We are what we eat - both physically and mentally. Pay close attention to what you're feeding your mind. The books, television, movies, newspapers and even the people we let enter into our lives become part of us. So what's eating you? Examine what you're feeling and then ask yourself this question, "What have I been thinking about recently?"

2. "Don't Worry Be Happy" ~ Bobby McFerrin

The outcome of choosing to behave in a positive way as much as possible, even if you don't feel like it, may surprise you. Life can be painful, but it's possible to overcome. Projecting happiness is infectious. A positive attitude toward life may help ward off sicknesses. Psychology Professor Sheldon Cohen (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) found that relaxed, happy people are less prone to catch colds than unhappy, anxious people. Have you smiled today?

3. See stress as an opportunity to grow

People who go through stressful events without dealing with them seem to be sick more often than those who have less of an issue confronting them. The problem is not stress, its how we deal with it. When we experience times of anxiety and fear, our brains release hormones as part of the fight or flight syndrome to prepare us for dangerous situations. When the body receives too many of these "danger" messages from our brains, our disease-resistance systems are weakened. Stressful situations seem to cause increased illnesses in those who consider themselves to be victims and react with anxiety and frustration. But those who consider stressful situations opportunities to overcome, tend to be healthier. If we can teach our mind to think in a way of overcoming a problem with a solution instead of just accepting a situation dealt, your mind and body will be healthier for it.

4. Surround your self with positive people and make friends

"If you look at all the theories of psychotherapy, people who have a lot of social support are happier," says Rebecca Curtis, PHD, a professor of psychology at Adelphi Univeristy in Garde City, N.Y., and director of research at the W.A. White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychoanalsyis in New York City.

Surrounding yourself with cheerful, positive people in your inner circle can be the key to your own happiness. And beware of those toxic friends, the ones who are always down and negative, as emotions can be transferred almost by osmosis. Retired baseball Coach, John Scolinos (from California Polytechnic College, Pomona), used to tell his winning baseball players, "Show me who you're with and I'll tell you who you are."

We need a positive social life that includes friends, close family members, and members of organizations. Instead of trying to chat up folks at the local watering hole, sign up for a class that involves a lot of social interaction. "It's easier to meet people if there's some kind of a structured discussion about a certain subject," says Muriel James, PhD, psychologist and author of It's Never Too Late to Be Happy.

It's a fact...those who have satisfying social lives enjoy improved resistance to illness.

5. Find a passion

Make a list of things you want to do before you die, also known as a "Bucket List." Don't be shy about writing down wild schemes, your deepest dreams and desires. Identifying an interest and pursuing it can develop into a rich and exciting life that you'd never imagined you'd have.

6. Take healthy risks

"Use your imagination not to scare yourself to death but to inspire yourself to live."

-   Adele Brookman

Approach what you feel anxious or uncomfortable about. This doesn't mean you should force yourself into terrifying situations needlessly. If you never leave your comfort zone, how will you know a fulfilled life?

7. Manage success well and pay it forward

Paying it forward is another great way to bring emotional joy to our mental health. Spreading your success around, rather than jealously guarding it, promotes better emotional health by continuously building your sense of self-worth. Volunteer your time, take a moment to simply say "thank you!" to someone who has done something for you, and remember, for every action there is a positive and equal reaction attached.

8. Protect yourself from the dreaded "Energy Vampires"

Debbie Downer, The Drama Queen, the Sob Sister, the Constant Talker, the Blamer - do you know any of these people? Chances are, you do.  Any of these characters can wear you out. Learn how to set boundaries with these people. Listen for awhile, and then break off the interchange. People are so afraid to do this as most don't want to seem impolite. You need to be firm with these "characters", though kind. The same goes for technology, which can be an overwhelming stressor. People go into despair when their computer breaks (or they forget their cell phone for a day). Don't let your computer hypnotize you. Get outside, at least look outside!

Cheers To Your Health!

Catherine Stiles

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


WebMD Feature: "10 Steps to Emotional Health in 2005."

WebMD Feature: "Spring Break Makeover for the Mind."

"How to Jumpstart Your Emotional Health" by Patricia Wagner


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