Emotional wellbeing is a deep sense of calm, balance, peace and fulfilment. It is an internal state that provides you with the resilience you need to handle whatever life throws at you. Emotional wellbeing is essential for health and happiness, as it determines the quality of every instant of your life.
Many people become aware of the state of their emotional wellbeing through the experience of stress, anxiety or depression, but emotional wellbeing is so much more than just managing stress.
The Mental Health Foundation has a useful definition of emotional wellbeing: "A positive sense of wellbeing which enables an individual to be able to function in society and meet the demands of everyday life; people in good mental health have the ability to recover effectively from illness, change or misfortune."
The elements of emotional wellbeing
Emotional wellbeing is characterised by the ability to:
- Make personal choices and decisions based on a combination of your feelings, thoughts, attitudes, values and behaviours;
- Live independently whilst appreciating the support of others;
- Love, care for, trust and respect yourself and others;
- Take appropriate challenges and risks;
- Take responsibility for your actions;
- Understand and adapt to change with relative ease;
- Manage stress and conflict positively and with dignity; and
- Maintain a positive sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Being emotionally well does not mean that you are perfect, nor does it mean that you don't have problems. It's about having the resilience to enable you to bounce back when you do have problems and not allow them to drag you down.
Building emotional resilience
Emotional resilience is the foundation of emotional wellbeing. It allows you to be balanced, flexible and able to deal with the stresses and strains of life with considerably greater ease. It allows you to understand that life has its ups and downs, yet you can maintain a positive and optimistic outlook amidst it all.
With greater awareness and understanding of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours, you can become more resilient, even if you are naturally more sensitive to life’s difficulties.
Resilience is not something that you either do or do not have; there are varying degrees of how people are able to handle stress. However, there are certain traits that resilient people tend to share, such as:
- Emotional awareness;
- A sense of personal responsibility for their lives;
- Knowing the difference between the need for support and independence;
- Sense of humour; and
The building blocks of emotional wellbeing
To create a solid foundation of emotional wellbeing, there's no better time to start than right now. It begins with awareness and a willingness to understand what causes you to act, react and behave the way you do.
To do this, it helps to have the skill of self awareness. If you have it, that's great, but if not, you may want to try out some mindfulness techniques.
To find out more, have a look at the Mindfulness section of the NHS Choices website.
If you'd like to find out about mindfulness meditation, check out our Get meditating section, where we have plenty of information and resources.
Observing your moods
Becoming aware of the different moods you experience, not only each day but throughout the day, can be incredibly powerful. Just observe how you respond and react to the different things that happen throughout the day. You'll begin to work out whether your moods provide a solid foundation for emotional wellbeing or not.
At the heart of emotional wellbeing is a commitment to listening and becoming fully aware of what is going on inside you in relation to your physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.
Getting to the root of problems
When you get used to observing your moods, you'll need to start digging a bit deeper. When you act or react in a particular way, try tracing its causes to find its root. Follow the feelings of your reactions, looking deep within you. Ask yourself why you behave and feel the way you do.
This approach is intense, and it demands commitment, concentration and a keen awareness of your thoughts and feelings.
Accepting mistakes and learning from them
In our competitive world, we are not encouraged to make mistakes openly, and this does our emotional wellbeing quite the disservice.
We human beings cannot grow unless we are able to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes. You will find life a lot easier and you will able to move on much more quickly if you are able to understand your mistakes fully. It takes courage to look at things as they truly are and to take responsibility for the actions that have caused you to make mistakes.
Talking about your feelings
It sounds simple, but it's not always that easy. Not everyone is comfortable talking about their feelings, but doing so can be a great way to keep your emotional wellbeing in check.
If you think that talking about your feelings is a sign of weakness, it's just not so. It’s quite the opposite. By talking about your feelings, you are taking charge of your wellbeing. That is a sign of strength, not weakness.
You may prefer to talk to people you know well, such as family and friends. You may prefer to go a little further afield and talk to someone in your community, such as your rabbi or others who offer support services at your synagogue. Or you may prefer to speak to a professional, such as a counsellor or therapist. It is, of course, your choice. What matters is that you find a way to be open about and express your feelings in a safe and secure environment.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to get counselling via your GP. If this is not available, you can ask your GP to refer you to a local organisation that may be able to help.
For general emotional support any time of day or night, the Samaritans are there to help.
To find out more, check out the Five steps to mental wellbeing section of the NHS Choices website.
Emotions and relationships
Many older people experience feelings of isolation and loneliness, so having a good social and support network is vital. Relationships with your spouse or partner, as well as friends and family, are all vital components of your social network.
Your relationship with yourself and your inner world of feelings, emotions and thoughts is not separate from your relationships with other people. As human beings, we are all interconnected and interdependent, and that feeling of connection with other human beings plays an important role in our overall wellbeing and happiness.
Independence and other people
As you get older, you may find that you need a bit of help from your friends and family to stay socially active.
If you are fiercely independent, you may find asking for help quite difficult. If you can look at asking for help as being in control of your dependencies, rather than not being independent, this can be quite life changing. It is incredibly liberating to be okay with asking people around you for help. If you are clear and upfront with people and don't ask them to do things you are perfectly capable of doing, you will find people incredibly accommodating.
Maintaining good relationships
As social beings, the quality of our relationships plays a key role in our emotional wellbeing.
Relationships are all different and can change throughout our lifetimes. Whatever age you are, it's important to work at all of the relationships in your life. Like anything worthwhile, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
Relationships with friends and family
Good friends and happy family relationships are hard to come by. If you value these relationships and treat them with care and respect, they will last you a lifetime.
Here are our top tips for maintaining good relationships:
- Be attentive. Your friends and family all want and need attention. It's easy to get so caught up in your own life that you forget this. If you do not take the time and attention to nurture your relationships, they will not last. Give your relationships the time they deserve.
- Be giving. The most important gift you can give to anyone is your presence. Be there for your friends and family when they need you. Make sure that you are open, nonjudgemental and emotionally available to give them whatever support they need.
- Be thoughtful. Include your friends and family in your thoughts throughout the day. If you think someone may appreciate a box of cookies, a home cooked meal or a phone call just to say "hello", then don't hesitate to act on it as soon as you can.
- Be grateful. Remember to be grateful for the family and friends who are in your life right now. Don't take them for granted. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
- Be communicative. Keep in touch with your friends and family regularly. It's important to keep an open and steady flow of communication so you can keep relationships fresh and current.
- Be encouraging. We all have dreams, hopes and wishes, and it's important that friends and family support each other in realising them. Make sure you take the time to listen, remember to enquire about how plans are going and be supportive and encouraging if and when people you care about hit any bumps along the way.
- Be a good listener. Everyone wants to feel valued, and there's no better way to make your friends and family feel that they matter than by being a good listener. When people you care for really feel heard, it is incredibly empowering.
- Be forgiving. Relationships all have their ups and downs, and after all, nobody's perfect. When your friends or family behave in ways that are upsetting to you, allow them to make mistakes and forgive them as soon as you can. This is not to say that you should brush unacceptable behaviour under the carpet. It's just that you should find a kind way to acknowledge what happened and then let it go.
- Be realistic. Many people set very high expectations of their friends and family, and when these expectations are not met, they can become disappointed, hurt, upset and even angry. In the same way that you can be forgiving and accept that people make mistakes, you should also realise that people are just human and may not always meet your expectations. Be kind to yourself and others by being realistic.
Relationship with your spouse or partner
Romantic relationships have that added layer of complexity when compared to relationships with friends and family. In addition to our top tips for maintaining good relationships with family and friends, here are a few more for maintaining a good relationship with your partner:
- Happy relationships don't just happen. Good relationships require commitment, dedication, love, hard work, honesty and open communication, for starters.
- Love your partner for who they are, not who you want them to be. You cannot control other people, no matter how hard you try. It's best to accept your partner just as they are. If they do, however, behave in a way that is hurtful to you, let them know in a kind way how it makes you feel. You may be surprised at how impactful this can be.
- Understand that anger is a reaction to hurt or fear. When you and your partner have an argument, see if you can step back and find its source before it gets out of control. When you're upset, see if you can figure out what's going on inside of you. If you can be honest with your partner about the hurt or fear that you are feeling, this may stop you from getting angry and making matters worse.
- Show your partner that you love them every day. It needn't be a grand gesture. Sometimes a loving look, a cup of tea in bed, a gentle hand placed on your partner's shoulder or a text message proclaiming your love can do the trick. Just find a way every day to let your partner know how much you honour, love and value your relationship with them.
- Be your partner's best friend. This is not to say that you should be unromantic. It's just that true friendship is a solid foundation for a lasting relationship.
- Be responsible for your own happiness. Many people look to their partner to make them happy and then become very unhappy when this is not sustainable. The truth is, only you can make yourself happy. A good relationship with your partner just makes life even sweeter.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender resources
If your orientation is same sex or you identify as transgender or bisexual, you may find that certain parts of the Jewish community are not comfortable with your sexuality or sexual identity. However, there are several different groups within the Jewish community that can provide you with information and support.