Are You Emotionally Healthy?
June 24, 2012
Bathing suit season is upon us. Look around at any department store and the preamble of summer is resonating in the aisles. Yes, it’s that time of year when people are watching their weight, trimming their waist lines and preparing their bodies for exposure to the world.
It’s as though the better you look on the outside, the better you’ll feel on the inside.
I’m amazed at how much time and energy we, as a society, put into our fitness and well-being and how little we invest in the other components of who we are. Even in our Christian societies where the stress may not be on physical fitness, the focus is definitely on the spiritual components. While both of these things are important areas to invest in, one part in particular that seems to be severely neglected is the area of our emotional health: a person’s functioning in thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
There is nothing more sobering than getting to know yourself as a whole person.
My career as a professional counselor has given me an awareness to this area because I spend my time interacting with people who seem so put together on the outside, but inside, their emotional worlds are in total disarray. Every day I meet men and women who work so hard at “keeping it together” for the eyes of those around them, rather than working at actually healing the inside. We get so good at perfecting our masks and living our lives behind the shadows.
In order to be healthy and whole as individuals, we have to begin living in an introspective way and learning what it means to look within. That’s hard to do in a world so fixated on the tangible and the outward. It’s crucial to be aware of our emotional temperature, as well as the things that bring us toward healing or hurt.
But this is all easier said than done. Just like anything else, the journey toward emotional health takes time and energy. While there are many ways to begin tackling this world within, here are some practices to examine as a start to your emotional check-up:
As you journal, you will find that patterns begin to emerge within your thinking. These patterns of thinking are likely to reveal a lot about your emotional health. For some, even when the circumstances in their lives may be difficult, the pattern of thinking that continues to make its appearance is positive and encouraging. For others, no matter the circumstances, the negative patterns of thinking continue to emerge, inhibiting positive emotions and even preventing success. Our mind is such a powerful tool, and it’s a primary contributor to our emotional health. God knew this well as He discussed the power of the mind and the importance of healthy thinking time and time again through Scripture (Proverbs 23:7, Philippians 4:8, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5). It’s vital to recognize our thinking patterns and habits, and to begin the practice of reclaiming them to health.
To be emotionally healthy means we align our emotions to reality, rather than allow them to become reality.
I couldn’t possibly write an article about emotional health without addressing the component of emotions! The interesting thing to note, though, is I never start at the emotions. It’s important to understand emotions serve a purpose; they are given to us as a compass to help point us toward the right track in our lives and our relationships. But due to the negative life circumstances beyond our control, the inevitable results of the fall, and our own personal mistakes, sometimes our compasses can be in desperate need of repair. To be an emotionally healthy person means to live a life that while it may be directed by emotions, it is not dictated by them. It’s important to reflect on our emotions and to keep them in check, remembering that just because we feel something doesn’t always mean it is truth. Stress, frustration, fear, excitement, guilt and anger are just a few of the emotions that can serve as a tool to drive us to action. But to be emotionally healthy means we align our emotions to reality, rather than allow them to become reality.
Another reflection of our emotional world is found in the quality of our interactions with others on a day-to-day basis. Is our life made up of positive, enriching relationships, or are we engaged with those who take, diminish and rob us of our joy? Your relationships determine a lot about your emotional health because, as the saying goes, “You teach people how to treat you.” In essence, we are in charge of the kind of interactions we are willing to engage in and which ones we choose to disengage. We are in charge of the boundaries and the limits we set in the relationships in our lives and our emotional health will either empower or inhibit us in doing so.
The last thing to examine as part of your emotional check up comes down to your external behaviors. Like it or not, what we do tells us a lot about who we are. The activities, habits and behaviors we engage in stem from the seed of emotional health or dysfunction that have been watered within our lives. Take a look at how you spend your time and the activities you choose to participate in. An emotionally healthy person will see the fruit of things that build them up and benefit their lives, while an emotionally unhealthy person will see a pattern of destruction and harm.
What we do tells us a lot about who we are.
There is nothing more sobering than getting to know yourself as a whole person. I consider this process to be comparable to holding a mirror up to your face. It’s a sure way to look your emotional world straight in the eye by seeing your thoughts, feelings, behaviors and interactions in a way you may have never looked at them before.
In order to get a good gauge of your emotional health, you have to allow yourself to come face to face with these things. For some people, it’s hard. They just aren’t prepared to dig deep and discover what’s really going on inside. Doing so uncovers some deep seated emotional pain they would rather keep stuffing than bring to the surface. The practice of an emotional check up may be hard, but it’s an important first step in taking action when it comes to your ultimate healing. The beautiful thing about this particular process is that you are in control, choosing when to go deep and when to come up for air. Use this emotional check up as an opportunity to begin the journey of taking off the mask and getting to know the real person inside.