The first installment in the eight-part series covering The Eight Dimensions of Wellness deals with the emotional dimension. Emotions are a primary element of human existence. In order to achieve emotional wellness, an individual must learn how to understand and control these emotions, among several other tasks.
The Power Of Emotion
Emotion holds a great amount of power in a person’s life. The association between an emotion and a specific event or circumstance in a person’s life can change the way that individual sees that event and can even change the person’s actions in response to the event. For instance, if an event evokes fear, the individual will find ways to avoid a repeat occurrence of that event.
Positive emotions can contribute to a person’s actions and encourage them to grow and expand beyond his or her limits. Emotions such as happiness, peacefulness, and love motivate an individual to make decisions that may improve their well-being and lifestyle in the long-term. Negative emotions hold an equal amount of power over an individual’s decisions. Sadness, fear, and guilt can allow individuals to commit harmful actions, or even paralyze them from doing anything.
Sometimes these emotions have no ties to a specific morality. Someone can commit a selfish or dangerous action because it makes that person feel good, while the guilt or regret within someone else motivates them to help others. In order to achieve full emotional wellness, the patient must learn to recognize, rationalize, and control emotions, as well as express them and identify them in other people.
As a part of emotional wellness, the patient should stay aware of his or her own emotional state. Identifying one’s emotions can help clear any confusion caused by emotions and aids in eventually controlling and expressing them. An efficient way to identify feelings is to summarize them in a single word. Someone can accomplish this on a variety of emotions, including:
By simplifying complex emotions into single words, the patient can apply them in simple, concise phrases, such as “I feel happy.” This practice allows the individual to state emotions in a way that is easy to identify and deal with.
Emotions Vs Facts
On the path to emotional wellness, patients become aware that their feelings are real, and they are valid. However, these feelings are not facts. Instead, factual events and occurrences invoke these feelings. In scientific terms, emotions are the reactions of chemical and electrical processes in the brain, often provided by an internal or external stimulus. A person will need to find the triggering event that led to the emotion. Some incidents that can invoke emotion are:
- Surviving a near-death experience, causing fear
- Accomplishing a difficult task, leading to pride
- Tasting expired food, creating disgust
- Missing out on a fun experience, invoking regret
Sometimes, these emotions are inherent to a specific situation, such as a fear of heights, since it is a natural mechanism that human beings need to prevent dangerous situations and survive. Some of these feelings, however, are irrational. For example, a person can fear going outside his or her house because something dangerous or deadly can happen. This fear holds no basis in reality, since the person is afraid of concepts that he or she has barely experienced. Additionally, one is never entirely safe within their own home either, since a household has some inherent risks as well.
Part of achieving emotional wellness involves coping with difficult situations or circumstances that everyday life throws at the patient. These situations create emotions, and once the patient recognizes the cause of that emotion, he or she will act in response. When it comes to the individual dealing with the fear of the outdoors, the individual has the choice to avoid the problem outright and continue to ignore the rationalization of the house being only relatively safer than the outside world.
Another choice is to create a plan of action that actively tackles the causes of the emotion to change the outcome the next time the cause manifests. By rationalizing the emotion and acting, the person can lead a more fulfilling life. The fearful individual can go outside and learn that the outside world is not inherently dangerous. Other examples of emotion regulation include:
- Someone making more careful practices after a near-death experience
- A prideful person pushing himself or herself toward more challenging tasks
- A disgusted person looking for signs and avoiding expired food
- Someone who is regretful taking more chances and participating in more in the future
Coping Methods As Regulation
There are times when following up the rationalization of an emotion with a responsive action is not always possible. Some events are inevitable, such as a death in the family or being laid off from a job, and the individual cannot do much directly to address the cause and react. The individual can at least cope by placing emphasis on something positive to mitigate any negative effects. An individual can shift the emotion to a more positive one by engaging in activities that reinforce that emotion, such as:
- Talking with a friend
- Playing with a pet
- Listening to a favorite song
- Watching a movie
- Playing a sport
- Practicing meditation
- Engaging in any other fun activity or hobby
In addition, an individual can change his or her thinking by emphasizing positive aspects and accomplishments, particularly if they are related to the event. Coping with difficult times does not mean avoiding them, but simply coping with the emotions. Maintaining a positive, enthusiastic outlook improves the well-being and facilitates the long-term solution that emotion regulation provides.
Understanding The Emotions Of Others
As part of the work of reaching overall wellness, the patient must learn to understand not just his or her feelings and how to act on them, but also how to understand the emotions of other people. Empathy is the broad concept of one’s reactions to the experiences of other people and usually divides into two categories.
This type of empathy focuses on the individual placing himself or herself in someone else’s position to understand the other person’s feelings. The individual experiences the actual feelings that the other person does, such as distress. Finally, the individual feels compassion toward the other person. While an empathetic person can share the same feelings, he or she may not always experience it in the same degree.
This version of empathy is essentially a person’s accuracy when processing someone else’s emotions. Someone with cognitive empathy can determine how another person feels without that person saying much.
By learning empathy, people can fulfill other requirements in the emotional dimension of wellness, such as understanding the feelings of others and expressing their own emotions in a way that is appropriate to everyone else. They can also achieve other dimensions of wellness, such as forging strong relationships to fulfill social wellness.
Seeking Emotional Wellness
This is the first part of our eight-part series about the Eight Dimensions of Wellness. Look out for our next installment coming soon. Continuum Recovery Center offers substance abuse programs that focus on the patient’s numerous areas of wellness, including emotional support. Contact us today for more information.