Boost Your Emotional Health
Experts offer 12 steps to emotional wellness.
By Sylvia Davis
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
You know you need to take care of your physical health, but have you been doing enough to maintain a healthy emotional balance? Here are 12 tips from the experts for reducing stress, managing negative emotions, and improving your emotional wellness.
1. Collect Friends
You need people, lots of them.
"If you look at all the theories of psychotherapy, people who have a lot of social support are happier," says Rebecca Curtis, PhD, a professor of psychology at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y., and director of research at the W.A. White Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Psychoanalysis in New York City.
The opposite is true, also. "We all need to be checking out our thoughts with other people, and people get weirder and weirder the more they stay alone," Curtis says.
If the friends-of-friends-of-friends chain reaction that had kept your life stocked with new relationships has fizzled out -- for example, if you have moved to a new place where you don't know anyone -- try taking a more active role. But instead of trying to chat up folks at the local watering hole, sign up for a class that involves a lot of social interaction.
"It's easier to meet people if there's some kind of a structured discussion about a certain subject," says Muriel James, PhD, psychologist and author of It's Never Too Late to Be Happy.
2. Enjoy Solitude
This step may seem to contradict the first one, but actually it complements it. Some isolation can be quite healthy.
"The isolation that comes when people have given up on other people is the problem," Curtis says.
Avoid this extreme, but don't be such a social butterfly that you lose yourself completely. Take time to "sit with your feelings," Curtis says, without distractions.
Some call this meditation, but it doesn't have to be done in the lotus position. For example, if you spend an hour alone in the car every day, keep the radio off, and listen to your thoughts instead.
Haven't got an hour alone? Try a three-minute meditation: close your door, turn off the phone, then close your eyes. Take deep breaths, focusing on your breath as it goes in and out. If thoughts come to you, just bring yourself back to your breathing. Then think about a beautiful image, a flower, a child's face; look at every detail. Then, gradually, breathe faster and open your eyes.
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