By Dr. Mercola
Emotional pain often exacts a greater toll on your quality of life than physical pain. The stress and negative emotions associated with any trying event can even lead to physical pain and disease.
In fact, emotional stress is linked to health problems including chronic inflammation, lowered immune function, increased blood pressure, altered brain chemistry, increased tumor growth and more.
Of course, emotional pain can be so severe that it interferes with your ability to enjoy life and, in extreme cases, may even make you question whether your life is worth living.
5 Tips for Healing Emotional Pain
As the featured article reported, Guy Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries, recently shared five tips for healing your emotional pain.
1. Let Go of Rejection
Rejection actually activates the same pathways in your brain as physical pain, which is one reason why it hurts so much. The feeling of rejection toys with your innate need to belong, and is so distressing that it interferes with your ability to think, recall memories and make decisions. The sooner you let go of painful rejections, the better off your mental health will be.
2. Avoid Ruminating
When you ruminate, or brood, over a past hurt, the memories you replay in your mind only become increasingly distressing and cause more anger – without providing any new insights. In other words, while reflecting on a painful event can help you to reach an understanding or closure about it, ruminating simply increases your stress levels, and can actually be addictive.
Ruminating on a stressful incident can also increase your levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in your body linked to cardiovascular disease.1
3. Turn Failure Into Something Positive
If you allow yourself to feel helpless after a failure, or blame it on your lack of ability or bad luck, it’s likely to lower your self-esteem. Blaming a failure on specific factors within your control, such as planning and execution, is likely to be less damaging, but even better is focusing on ways you can improve and be better informed or prepared so you can succeed next time (and try again, so there is a next time).
4. Make Sure Guilt Remains a Useful Emotion
Guilt can be beneficial in that it can stop you from doing something that may harm another person (making it a strong "relationship protector"). But guilt that lingers or is excessive can impair your ability to focus and enjoy life.
If you still feel guilty after apologizing for a wrongdoing, be sure you have expressed empathy toward them and conveyed that you understand how your actions impacted them. This will likely lead to authentic forgiveness and relief of your guilty feelings.
5. Use Self-Affirmations if You Have Low Self-Esteem
While positive affirmations are excellent tools for emotional health, if they fall outside the boundaries of your beliefs, they may be ineffective. This may be the case for people with low self-esteem, for whom self-affirmations may be more useful. Self-affirmations, such as “I have a great work ethic,” can help to reinforce positive qualities you believe you have, as can making a list of your best qualities.
My Most Highly Recommended Tool for Emotional Healing
Many, if not most, people carry emotional scars -- traumas that can adversely affect your health and quality of life. Using techniques like energy psychology, you can correct the emotional short-circuiting that contributes to your chronic emotional pain. My favorite technique for this is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is the most comprehensive and most popular version of energy psychology. EFT is a form of psychological acupressure based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years, but without the invasiveness of needles.
Instead, simple tapping with the fingertips is used to transfer kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem -- whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, anxiety, etc. -- and voice positive affirmations.
This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit"—the emotional block—from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical disease. The beauty about EFT is that it can reprogram your body’s reactions to the unavoidable stressors of everyday life, thereby providing a more lasting effect.
More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, EFT has the most potential to literally work magic. Clinical trials have shown that EFT is able to rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress. Once the distress is reduced or removed, your body can often rebalance itself, and accelerate healing.
For a demonstration of how to perform EFT, please see the video below featuring EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman. The first video is a general demonstration, which can be tailored to just about any problem, and the second demonstrates how to tap for depression. While this technique is particularly effective for relieving emotional or mental stress and anxiety, it can be used for all manner of physical pain relief as well.
Total Video Length: 25:12
While the video above will easily teach you how to do EFT, it is VERY important to realize that self-treatment for serious issues is NOT recommended. It can be dangerous because it will allow you to falsely conclude that EFT does not work when nothing could be further from the truth. For serious or complex issues, you need someone to guide you through the process as there is an art to this process and it typically takes years of training to develop the skill to tap on deep-seated, significant issues.
Emotional Health Takes Ongoing Care: 9 More Tips for Well-Being
Just as eating healthy, exercising and getting a good night’s sleep are habits that must be held to in the long run to be effective, your emotional health requires ongoing care as well. And, just like your physical body, your mind can only take so much stress before it breaks down. Yet many neglect to tend to their emotional health with the same devotion they give to their physical well-being. This is a mistake, but one that’s easily remedied with the following tips for emotional nurturing.2
1. Be an Optimist
Looking on the bright side increases your ability to experience happiness in your day-to-day life while helping you cope more effectively with stress.
2. Have Hope
Having hope allows you to see the light at the end of the tunnel, helping you push through even dark, challenging times. Accomplishing goals, even small ones, can help you to build your level of hope.
3. Accept Yourself
Self-deprecating remarks and thoughts will shroud your mind with negativity and foster increased levels of stress. Seek out and embrace the positive traits of yourself and your life, and avoid measuring your own worth by comparing yourself to those around you.
4. Stay Connected
Having loving and supportive relationships helps you feel connected and accepted, and promote a more positive mood. Intimate relationships help meet your emotional needs, so make it a point to reach out to others to develop and nurture these relationships in your life.
5. Express Gratitude
People who are thankful for what they have are better able to cope with stress, have more positive emotions, and are better able to reach their goals. The best way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal or list, where you actively write down exactly what you’re grateful for each day. Doing so has been linked to happier moods, greater optimism and even better physical health.
6. Find Your Purpose and Meaning
When you have a purpose or goal that you’re striving for, your life will take on a new meaning that supports your mental well-being. If you’re not sure what your purpose is, explore your natural talents and interests to help find it, and also consider your role in intimate relationships and ability to grow spiritually.
7. Master Your Environment
When you have mastery over your environment, you’ve learned how to best modify your unique circumstances for the most emotional balance, which leads to feelings of pride and success. Mastery entails using skills such as time management and prioritization along with believing in your ability to handle whatever life throws your way.
8. Exercise Regularly
Exercise boosts levels of health-promoting neurochemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress and also relieve some symptoms of depression. Rather than viewing exercise as a medical tool to lose weight, prevent disease, and live longer – all benefits that occur in the future – try viewing exercise as a daily tool to immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and feel happier.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. Rather than letting your mind wander, when you’re mindful you’re living in the moment and letting distracting or negative thoughts pass through your mind without getting caught up in their emotional implications. Mindfulness can help you reduce stress for increased well-being as well as achieve undistracted focus.
Physical Health Also Supports Emotional Health and Healing
It’s a mistake to view your emotional health as a separate entity from your physical health, as the two are intricately connected. You’ll have an easier time bouncing back from emotional setbacks when you’re physically well, and healthy habits will also help keep your mood elevated naturally in the midst of stress. Happy people tend to be healthy people, and vice versa, so in addition to the tips above, the following lifestyle strategies can also help to support emotional wellness and healing:
- Eat well: What you eat directly impacts your mood and energy levels in both the short and long term. Whereas eating right can prime your body and brain to be in a focused, happy state, eating processed junk foods will leave you sluggish and prone to chronic disease. My free nutrition plan is an excellent tool to help you choose the best foods for both physical and emotional wellness.
- Proper sleep: Sleep deprivation is linked to psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and bipolar depression, while getting the right amount of sleep has been linked to positive personality characteristics such as optimism and greater self-esteem, as well as a greater ability to solve difficult problems.3
- Animal-based omega-3 fats: Low concentrations of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA are known to increase your risk for mood swings and mood disorders. Those suffering from depression have been found to have lower levels of omega-3 in their blood, compared to non-depressed individuals. Krill oil is my preferred source of omega-3 fats.
- Regular sun exposure: This is essential for vitamin D production, low levels of which are linked to depression. But even beyond vitamin D, regular safe sun exposure is known to enhance mood and energy through the release of endorphins.