By Dr. Mercola
Your emotional health is at the crux of your quality of life. Without happiness, hopefulness and well-being, it’s difficult to reach your full potential and embrace each day as it comes.
Your emotional health is also intricately tied to your physical health, such that an emotionally imbalanced person will be at a greater risk of chronic diseases and acute illnesses like colds and flu.
One study found, for instance, that happiness, optimism, life satisfaction, and other positive psychological attributes are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.1
It's even been scientifically shown that happiness can alter your genes. A team of researchers at UCLA showed that people with a deep sense of happiness and well-being had lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and stronger antiviral and antibody responses.2
There is some research to suggest that some people are born naturally happier than others. In one study of nearly 1,000 pairs of adult twins, researchers at the University of Edinburgh suggested that genes account for about 50 percent of the variation in people's levels of happiness.
The underlying determinant was genetically caused personality traits, such as being sociable, active, stable, hardworking, or conscientious.3 But this does not at all suggest that you're born with a certain emotional “personality” and powerless to change it.
Anyone can improve their level of “emotional success,” and your environment and life circumstances also play a role, as there are many other indicators of emotional well-being outside of your genes (or your age).
7 Habits of Emotionally Successful People
In many ways, your level of emotional success is based on your own choices and attitudes. While some people are able to roll with the punches, others get easily sidelined by challenges along the way.
In order to “toughen up” emotionally, such that you’re able to live your life feeling naturally strong and confident in your choices (and in yourself), try some of these 7 habits of emotionally successful people.4
1. Take Control
Rather than sitting back and letting life happen to you, take control and decide to make things happen for you. Become the ruler of your own destiny, so to speak, and take calculated steps to achieve your goals and desires.
2. Be Flexible
Life is likely to throw you a few curveballs. When that happens, will they throw you off course or will you be able to pivot when you need to? Being flexible means you have an open mind and will adjust to whatever life throws your way.
3. Learn from Your Mistakes
Mistakes often offer valuable lessons that you can use to improve yourself in the future. Treat them as tools for improvement rather than letting them define you.
4. Create Specific Goals
Students who set goals earn twice as much money as those who do not. Further, those who set clear, written goals were earning 10 times as much.5 Setting and writing out your goals helps you to have a clear direction and plan for achieving your dreams.
5. Accept Yourself
Strength comes from within, so learning to accept yourself is crucial to being happy. Resist the urge to look for acceptance from others. Once you’re comfortable and strong in your own sense of self, relationships and success come naturally.
6. Keep Your Stress in Check
If you’re under stress, it’s harder to control your emotions. Figure out what works for you to keep your stress levels under control (exercise, talking with a friend, alone time, etc.), and be sure to engage in it regularly.
7. Let the Little Things Slide
Stressing and fretting over circumstances you can’t control or which don’t really matter in the big picture will drain your mental reserves and wear you down. Resist the urge to become a control freak and instead let go of the little inconveniences, upsets, and disappointments that come along the way.
Choosing to Be Happy
What you’ll notice about the habits above is that these are primarily choices you can make for yourself. It's thought that genetics account for about 50 percent of your "innate" happiness while life circumstances make up another 10. The rest is under your control, and the first step to harnessing it is to choose it and believe you can be happy.
Research shows, for instance, that when people were told to attempt to feel happier when listing to music, they were (as opposed to those who were told to simply relax).6 It was the intention to become happier that made a difference.
It might help to consider your emotions as a form of energy. According to Dr. Bradley Nelson, when you feel an emotion, what you’re really sensing is the vibration of a particular energy. Each emotion has its own vibratory signature, and when intense emotions are felt, they can become trapped in your body, much like a ball of energy.
These “balls of energy” can become lodged just about anywhere in your body, where they can then cause disruptions in your body’s energy system, which underlies your physical system much like an invisible matrix.
Your body cannot tell the difference between an actual experience that triggers an emotional response and an emotion fabricated through thought process alone—such as when worrying about something negative that might occur but has not actually happened, or conversely, thinking about something positive and pleasant.
The latter, of course, will help your body to express many of the health benefits associated with happiness, while ruminating or focusing on negativity can literally manifest disease.
The Health Benefits of Happiness
Happiness not only feels good… it’s physically good for your body, too. For instance, past research has found that positive emotions –including being happy, lively and calm -- appear to play a role in immune function. One study found that when happy people are exposed to cold and flu viruses, they’re less likely to get sick and, if they do, exhibit fewer symptoms.7
The association held true regardless of the participants’ levels of self-esteem, purpose, extraversion, age, education, body mass or pre-study immunity to the virus, leading the lead researcher to say:8
“We need to take more seriously the possibility that positive emotional style is a major player in disease risk.”
Further, in a study of nearly 200 heart failure patients, those with higher levels of gratitude had better mood, better sleep, less fatigue, and less inflammation, which can worsen heart failure, than those with lower levels.9
What this means is that investing in your own happiness should not be viewed as a self-indulgent luxury. It represents an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to piecing together your overall health.
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 surefire recipe for emotional breakdown.
What Your Emotions Look Like…
Happiness is associated with a smile, sadness with a frown, but researchers have recently been able to use technology to visualize how your emotions manifest inside your body. Researchers in Finland asked 700 volunteers from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan to think about one of 14 predetermined emotions, and then paint the areas of a blank silhouette that felt stimulated by that particular emotion.
Using a second blank silhouette, they were asked to paint in the areas that felt “deactivated” during that emotion.10 (If you want to try this experiment yourself, you can do so here.) The experiment showed that emotions tend to be felt in ways that are generally consistent from one person to the next, irrespective of age, sex or nationality. As reported by The Atlantic:11
“The mapping exercise produced what you might expect: an angry hot-head... a depressed figurine that was literally blue (meaning they felt little sensation in their limbs). Almost all of the emotions generated changes in the head area, suggesting smiling, frowning, or skin temperature changes, while feelings like joy and anger saw upticks in the limbs—perhaps because you’re ready to hug, or punch, your interlocutor.
Meanwhile, ‘sensations in the digestive system and around the throat region were mainly found in disgust,’ the authors wrote. It's worth noting that the bodily sensations weren't blood flow, heat, or anything else that could be measured objectively—they were based solely on physical twinges subjects said they experienced… [T]he results likely reveal subjective perceptions about the impact of our mental states on the body, a combination of muscle and visceral reactions and nervous system responses that we can’t easily differentiate.”
9 More Strategies to Stay Emotionally Healthy
It’s clear that your emotional state is intricately tied to your physical and mental states. So what can you do to stay emotionally healthy? Like achieving physical fitness or a healthy weight, this is an ongoing process… something that must be tended to each and every day. The good news is that small steps add up and can make a major different for your emotional health. Tips for emotional nurturing include:
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. Embrace Your Quirks
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 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.
Harnessing EFT for Better Emotional Health
If your emotions are a form of energy that can even become “trapped” in your body if they become too intense, using a form of energy psychology to heal your emotional scarring makes perfect sense. Energy psychology techniques such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) allow you to correct the emotional short-circuiting that may be causing you physical dysfunction. While EFT makes use of the same energy meridians known in traditional acupuncture, EFT does not involve needles.
Instead, gentle tapping with your 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.
Clinical trials have shown 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. In the video below, EFT practitioner Julie Schiffman shows how to tap away your stress for increased happiness and well-being.
Total Video Length: 24:52