How to improve emotional wellness and well-being

Mental Health and Wellness
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Emotional wellness is essential for a happy, fulfilled life. Yet all too often, life's stressors take center stage in our minds, pushing our emotional wellbeing to the side.

There are many different factors that contribute to our emotional well-being, from our relationships and connections, to our sleep, diet and activities and hobbies you care about.

"The first step in improving emotional well-being is to practice self-compassion," says Kerry Welch, MS, CAADC, a behavioral health therapist at Mirmont Outpatient Center Exton, part of Main Line Health. "Replace negative self-talk with patience and understanding. Give yourself the space and room to feel and process your emotions."

Tending to our emotional well-being and health is an ever-changing, lifelong process. And even a little work can go a long way. Here are several ways to improve your emotional well-being:

Practice self-compassion

People tend to treat other people far better than they treat themselves. The first, and most crucial step, toward improving your emotional wellness is being kind to yourself. "Treat yourself how you treat other people," says Welch.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, take a mental time out. Stop, sit and give yourself the time and space to slow things down. "Give yourself space to feel what you're feeling," says Welch. "With a little compassion and self-love comes the space and understanding to not be perfect and to not be able to do and accomplish everything immediately."

The practice of positive self-talk can help you feel more joy, optimism and hope.

Set small goals

People often look at the big picture and get overwhelmed by all the steps they must take to reach their goals.

Instead of focusing on everything you need to achieve, set a few small tasks each day that you can realistically accomplish. Breaking down big, long-term goals into small, achievable tasks can help minimize stress while taking meaningful steps toward those big goals.

"Set specific, very small goals that you can build upon," says Welch. "When you accomplish those tasks, reward yourself with something that makes you happy."

Try out relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation, can help improve your emotional well-being by helping you slow down and stay in the present moment.

All too often, our minds wander and our thoughts race about all the things we could and should be doing differently. When we meditate, engage in deep breathing exercises or practice mindfulness, we can gain perspective so that stressors don't control our thoughts and behaviors.

"The tendency is to allow the stress to run your thoughts and behaviors," says Welch. "But if you can back up a little bit and look at the stress from a different perspective, it can become more manageable."

The biggest tip Welch gives people is to be authentic and feel your emotions by learning how to recognize and manage them.

Build a strong support system

Socialization and connection are essential ways to improve your overall well-being and emotional wellness. Everyone needs people in their lives they can open up to. "As humans, in general, we thrive and we crave connection and belonging," says Welch.

More often than not, people who are struggling with addiction wind up battling the disease alone. Addiction—along with mental health disorders like depression and anxiety—can be incredibly isolating. "Get connected to someone or try to start talking about how you're feeling," says Welch.

This can be a close friend or family member or other people who have gone or are going through similar experiences. There are many different types of support groups such as 12-step programs, church groups and virtual support groups.

Take care of your health and well-being

Diet, sleep and exercise can all impact our emotional wellness.

When we exercise, our body releases endorphins—the feel-good chemicals that boost our mood and help improve emotional wellness. Exercise also lowers our blood pressure, gives us a sense of accomplishment and relieves stress. Exercise comes in all shapes and forms and includes everything from yoga and walking to a high-energy workout class to an intramural sports league.

What we eat doesn't just impact our physical health—it affects our emotional health, too. A healthful, balanced diet gives your brain and body the nourishment it needs to boost your mood and emotional well-being.

Prioritize your sleep and aim to get eight hours per night. Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences—it impacts our mood, ability to focus and behaviors. A good night's sleep, on the other hand, can provide you with more fuel and stamina to combat life's daily stressors and curveballs. "We have to give our body and brain time to rest," says Welch.

Get engaged in hobbies or activities

Stress can be all-consuming, and one of the best ways to combat stress is to find an activity or hobby that lets you get outside of yourself. Welch recommends volunteering in your community or reaching out to others who are in need. Doing so has a lot of power, and can help you keep perspective by turning your focus away from the stressors in your life.

"We sit and ruminate on our stress, but it's not going to make it go away," says Welch. Instead, practice self-compassion, show yourself some grace, get involved in your community and get connected to other people. Together, these things can help you combat stress and improve your emotional well-being.

Next steps:

Make an appointment with Kerry Welch, MS, CAADC
Learn about Mirmont Treatment Center
What is a holistic approach to mental health?

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