As a society, we tend to put a lot of time and energy into our physical fitness and well-being, but often forget about the other components of who we are. Even in our Christian societies where the stress may not be on physical fitness, the focus is definitely on the spiritual components.
While both of these things are important areas to invest in, one part in particular that seems to be severely neglected is the area of our emotional health. Let me begin by saying that the word “emotional health” consists of a person’s functioning in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
My career as a professional counselor has given me quite an awareness to this area because I am constantly interacting with people who seem so put together on the outside, but inside, their emotional worlds are in total disarray. At times, I’ve even experienced this within myself.
Every day there are people who are working so hard to “keep it together” on the outside all the while struggling on the inside. We get so good at perfecting the mask and living our lives fearfully under its shadow (Tweet It!)
But in order to be healthy and whole as individuals we have to begin living in an introspective way and learning what it means to look within. That’s hard to do in a world that is so fixated on the tangible and the outward. It’s crucial to be aware of our emotional temperature as well as the things that bring us toward healing or toward hurt.
Granted, this is all easier said than done- but it’s possible. Because just like anything else, the journey toward emotional health takes time and energy. While there are many ways to begin tackling this world within, here are some practices to examine as a start to your emotional check-up:
1. Thoughts: As you journal you will find that patterns begin to emerge within your thinking. These patterns of thinking are likely to reveal a lot about your emotional health. For some, even when the circumstances in their lives may be difficult, the pattern of thinking that continues to make its appearance is positive and hopeful. For others, no matter the circumstances, the negative patterns of thinking continue to emerge, inhibiting positive emotions and even preventing life success. Our mind is such a powerful tool, and it’s a primary contributor to our emotional health. God knew this well as he discussed the power of the mind and the importance of healthy thinking time and time again through scripture (Proverbs 23:7, Philippians 4:8, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5). It’s vital to recognize our thinking patterns and habits, and to begin the practice of reclaiming them to health.
2. Feelings: I couldn’t possibly write an article about emotional health without addressing the component of emotions! The interesting thing to note, though, is that I never start at the emotions. It’s important to understand that emotions serve a purpose; they are given to us as a compass to help point us toward the right track in our lives and our relationships. But due to the negative life circumstances beyond our control, the inevitable results of the fall, as well as our own personal sins and mistakes, sometimes our compasses can be in desperate need of repair. To be an emotionally healthy person means to live a life directed by emotions, not dictated by them (Tweet It!) It’s important to reflect on our emotions and to keep them in check, remembering that just because we feel something doesn’t always mean that it is truth. Stress, frustration, fear, excitement, guilt and anger are just a few of the emotions that can serve as a tool to drive us to action. But to be emotionally healthy means that we align our emotions to reality, rather than allow them to become reality.
3. Interactions: Another reflection of our emotional world is found in the quality of our interactions with others on a day to day. Is our life made up of positive, enriching relationships, or are we engaged with those who take, diminish, and rob us of our joy? Your relationships determine a lot about your emotional health because as one of my favorite phrases claims, “You teach people how to treat you”. In essence, we are in charge of the kind of interactions we are willing to engage in, and which ones we choose to disengage. We are in charge of the boundaries and the limits we set in the relationships in our lives and our emotional health will either empower or inhibit us in doing so.
4. Behaviors: The last thing to examine as part of your emotional check up comes down to your external behaviors. Like it or not, what we do tells us a lot about who we are. The activities, habits, and behaviors that we engage in stem from the seed of emotional health or dysfunction that have been watered within our lives. Take a look at how you spend your time and the activities you choose to participate in. An emotionally healthy person will see the fruit of things that build them up and benefit their lives, while an emotionally unhealthy person will see a pattern of destruction and harm.
In order to get a good gauge of your emotional health, you have to take a look in the mirror and come face to face with these things. For some people that is hard. They are not prepared to dig deep and discover what’s really going on inside. Doing so may uncover some deep seated emotional pain and hurts that they would rather keep stuffing than bring to the surface.
The practice of an emotional check up may be hard, but it is an important first step in taking action when it comes to becoming a healthy person.The beautiful thing about this particular process is that you get to decide when to go deep and when to come up for air.
Use this emotional check up as an opportunity to begin the journey of taking off the mask and getting to know the real person within. (More on becoming Emotionally Healthy in Section 1 of TLD)
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. You may also recognize her voice from her 50+ articles at Relevant Magazine! She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!