What is emotional health?


psychotherapy in Toronto: emotional health


Often, emotions and feelings get left out of conversations related to mental health, especially in our western culture which still emphasizes intellect over feelings.  We still want to separate the body and mind, and yet increasingly we are coming to see that the two are inextricably linked.

  • Emotions and feelings reside in the body, along with thoughts and beliefs (the cognitive, intellectual, or mental components).  Someone with good emotional health is able to access all of this information, and use it as a basis to move themselves forward in life.
  • Emotional health (sometimes called emotional intelligence) involves being able to accept, identify and manage our feelings and emotions.  It means being comfortable expressing feelings – or at least being able to choose how and when to express them.
  • Good emotional health contributes strongly to a sense of well-being, and gives an individual the confidence that he or she can cope with stress.
  • The work of psychotherapy is often related to the integration of the mental and emotional aspects of ourselves.  Because it is holistic, Gestalt therapy is highly suited for this task.
  • Emotional health is becoming more widely known as an important feature of good mental health.  Without good emotional health, regardless of our success and accomplishments in life, we aren’t able to feel happy.
  • Unfortunately, however, emotional health and wellness is not taught in schools.  Unless modeled by parents or elders who function in an emotionally healthy way, children don’t learn how to have and maintain good emotional health.
  • Too often in our culture, emotions are divided into positive and negative.  This isn’t an approach I favor, because all our emotions were originally built-in as survival mechanisms.  To me, emotions and feelings only become positive or negative based on the way we manage and express their energy.

For example: if you feel angry because you can’t find your keys:

    • You might use that angry energy to hunt for the keys, and to resolve to create a new habit and put them in the same place when you arrive home … or
    • You might use that angry energy to rant and rave, to smash a few breakable things nearby, and to accuse your spouse or partner of taking the keys.
  • Currently, there are differing views on how many basic emotions there are, ranging from 4 or 5 to 9 or 10, or even more.  Most agree that anger, sadness, fear and joy are prominent, while others would add surprise, disgust, love, shame and pride.
  • I don’t think the number of emotions matters, because emotions and feelings are quite subjective and too often avoided or suppressed, which can play havoc not only with our mental health, but also with our physical health.  The suppressed energy can travel through our bodies to the places where we may be genetically vulnerable, and cause trouble there.
  • So good emotional health becomes even more important to our overall health.