Wouldn't it be great if we all came with an emotional 'how-to' book when we came into the world? Since that's not the case, most of us learn our emotional habits by observing our families, teachers, and other caregivers as we are growing up.
That can work really well if we are lucky enough to observe healthy habits on a regular basis and learn to express positive patterns that support our well-being. Unfortunately, far too many of us end up learning negative patterns, typically that certain emotions are bad and should be repressed or avoided.
Dysfunctional emotional patterns influence every aspect of your life. Your health, your mental health, your relationships, your working life, even, believe it or not, your digestion and ability to assimilate nutrients are impacted by your emotional expression.
Your emotional well-being is a fundamental pillar of your health. It is every bit as important as optimal nutrition, restful sleep, mindful movement, and a daily meditation practice. As such, developing beneficial emotional hygiene habits will go a long way towards wellness and vitality.
How does it work?
Your thoughts, emotions, and desires influence and are intricately influenced by your internal and external environment. Moods and emotions are chemistry. Every thought stimulates an emotional response and a matching chemical response, and conversely, your chemical activity stimulates emotional responses which in turn lead to thoughts. The biochemical reciprocity between your cells and your moods is undeniable and becoming more and more supported through modern research.
Negative thought patterns stimulate negative emotions, which can in turn contribute to the experience of physical dis-ease, inflammation, and chronic issues.
Positive thought patterns stimulate positive thoughts, which in turn contribute to an increased sensation and experience of well-being.
For example, research identifies that negative thought patterns can significantly increase the experience of chronic pain. The good news is the reverse is also true, and positive or beneficial thought patterns can assist with pain management.
How do we change?
Generating positive and healthy emotional well-being doesn’t mean ignoring or avoiding everything but happy emotions. Nor does it mean expecting to be happy all the time.
We are gifted with a wide range of emotions for a reason and each of them, including sadness and anger, have their place in our overall well-being. The problems begin when we are only generating the negative patterns and not allowing ourselves to feel the upbeat ones.
The best way to manage our emotional landscape is to cultivate higher levels of self-awareness and pay attention to our thoughts. Start to notice what kinds of things make you comfortable and uncomfortable. Then start to notice whether they are internally or externally motivated.
Before long you will more than likely start to notice a pattern and you can begin to make changes that move you closer and closer to optimal emotional well-being.
Meditation, journaling, stream of consciousness writing, can all begin to reveal the patterns and habits of your thoughts. Taking time to track your moods can also reveal how other things like diet, sleep patterns, and stress levels influence your emotional well-being.
Self-awareness leads to the ability to self-regulate which in turn leads to the ability to transcend those things that generate negative patterns and ill health.