The new year is a time when many of us decide to focus on something we would like to change or improve upon in our lives. Often, physical health or career goals take center stage this time of year. Our emotional and mental health need not take a back seat to these goals. In fact, focusing on our emotional wellbeing will help us to reach our other goals.
Emotional wellbeing is achieved when we are able to experience a range of emotions as well as function well in our relationships, work, school and home lives. Emotional wellbeing doesn't mean the absence of negative emotions, rather, it is the ability to experience those emotions, know they are temporary and believe that you will bounce back. This ability is known as emotional resilience. There are skills we can develop to build emotional resilience and promote emotional wellbeing. I have highlighted three skill areas to strengthen your emotional wellbeing in 2017.
1. Develop an emotional vocabulary. In my therapy office I will often ask, "What emotion is present when you think/talk about that?" This question gives people pause to think about what emotion they are experiencing during any given event. Emotions are something we don't talk a lot about during our everyday lives, yet we are constantly experiencing an emotion of one kind or another. When we are able to recognize an emotion and name it, that action alone can reduce the intensity of our reaction to it. The feeling wheel, developed by Gloria Willcox, can be a useful tool to build our vocabulary around emotion.
2. Recognize your strengths and the strengths of those around you. Numerous studies have pointed to the link between optimism and overall health. If optimism doesn't come naturally to you, that's ok. One of the ways to cultivate a more optimistic view point is to simply notice the strengths you and the people around you have. We don't need to ignore the problems in the world to have an optimistic attitude. What helps our sense of hope develop is when we see the strength and resiliency all around us.
3. Strengthen your social support network. You're not a social butterfly? The idea of a big New Year's party makes you cringe? No worries, social support doesn't mean the number of social engagements you attend or the number of friends you have. Social support is the feeling of connectedness you have to someone else . You can choose to strengthen a current relationship you have, or you might choose to reach out to make new connections. The important thing is that you're working to increase your feeling of connectedness. Like everything else, building strong relationships is a skill that takes time to develop. If making friends doesn't come easily, here are some tips on how to build that skill.
Every new day is an opportunity to chose to live the life you deserve. The beginning of a new year is great time to refocus on the things that build you up. This new year, I invite you to strengthen and build the skills that will give you the emotional wellbeing you deserve.
-Kori Hennessy, MA