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  • Writer's pictureStella Sremić

EMOTIONS: THE HEART OF WELLNESS

Previously we were talking about the Six domain model of wellness and then we explained the physical domain. In this blog, we continue our discussion about wellness by introducing you to the emotional domain.

Eastern practices have formed an approach to wellness through the chakras: seven wheels of energy in the body that are located in different places, starting from the top of your head. The chakra system originated in India between 1500 and 500 BC. The central one, the fourth chakra - anahata - is located at the heart. Proper functioning of the heart chakra enables love, compassion, mercy, communicating and acceptance of others’ ideas and opinions, bringing us a greater sense of emotional wellness.


You are attending the first online meeting of the week with your colleagues and a team leader opens the conversation with the well-known question: “How’s it going? How is everybody doing? Are you feeling alright?”

How often do you catch yourself almost immediately, automatically replying: “I’m good, everything is fine”?

It doesn’t need to be strictly limited to the workplace – similar questions are asked at the beginning of a lecture, at the cash register of our local shop, in the street when we meet our neighbors. We’re so often asked that question… but we also ask it a lot. And we (mostly) always say the same answer, but we also expect it in return because it is one of the unwritten rules of society.

Now imagine you’re saying hi to a friend you haven’t seen in years, and he starts to tell you how he is not good, but rather very anxious because of his relationship and he feels devastated. When expecting an “I’m fine” sequence of small talk, how would you respond to this surprise? Would you readily share those feelings with them?


What is meant by emotional wellness?

Hudson-Vitale and Waltz (2020) in their approach use a six domain model of wellness, in which the emotional domain refers to strategies that help individuals to connect with, experience and reflect on emotions. In their review of different theories and models of wellness, Roscoe (2019) underlines how the emotional domain is considered a component of almost all wellness theories and models. Despite differences, all definitions of emotional wellness place an emphasis on the ability to act autonomously and cope with stress, as well as a connectedness to social wellness because it allows us to build fulfilling relationships with others (Roscoe, 2019). Some approaches consider a positive attitude about life, oneself and the future as an important part of emotional wellness. Leafgren (1990) therefore states that, besides emotional wellness being defined as awareness and acceptance of one’s feelings, it is also the degree to which one feels positive about life and about oneself.


Why pay attention to your emotions?

Improving your emotional domain of wellness requires a lot of self-reflection and introspection. Depending on where you currently stand on your emotional wellness, this may sound complex and you may ask yourself what could possibly change if you start paying attention to emotions.

Research has shown that emotions definitely have a huge role in the story of the holistic approach to individuals and their physical health, mental health and well-being, overall. In their systematic review, Patel and Patel (2019) pointed out the physiological and psychological consequences of the repression of emotions. Repression is one of the most used strategies to regulate one’s emotions. At first, maybe it doesn’t even sound that serious – what could happen if we decide not to express our emotions? One reason why people may choose not to express their emotions is related to a fear of feeling or being seen as ‘emotionally vulnerable’. Yet, if constantly used, this coping strategy can seriously harm an individual’s physiological state because, simultaneously, the body’s immunity is being suppressed. Therefore, individuals who repress emotions are more vulnerable to certain illnesses.

Dr. Allan Abbas is a psychiatrist, teacher and researcher that founded the Centre for Emotions and Health at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. In his paper, he had gathered a list of emotion-linked complaints and disorders that includes smoking, substance abuse, obesity, and specifically, all kind of different problems in the field of cardiology (hypertension, chest pain, palpitations), dermatology (psoriasis, dermatitis, itch), neurology (dizziness, headache), urology, endocrinology, respirology, obstetrics and gynecology and ophthalmology (Abbas, 2005).

Furthermore, there are not only physical implications – concealing and repressing emotions is connected to stress reactions in which people feel anxious, but they also have a lower level of commitment in the workplace and reduced productivity (Patel and Patel, 2019).


How can I work on my emotional wellness?

The first step in improving the emotional domain is allowing yourself to feel all the different kinds of emotions that emerge for you. Emotions are affective reactions of high intensity and short duration that have an anatomical counterpart in the brain. There are no such things as good or bad emotions, so feeling any type of emotion is perfectly fine as long as we are not hurting ourselves or the people around us. American psychologist Paul Ekman has studied and named six primary emotions that are biologically rooted and common in all cultures: joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise and disgust. Furthermore, complex emotions are defined as any type of emotion that is an aggregate of two or more others.

You can think of emotions as a kind of data points that are helpful signals about what is going on beneath the surface. Therefore, we shouldn’t ignore that data, but rather collect it and analyze it in order to learn how to balance our emotions, thoughts and behavior.


Here is a list of actions you can take in your everyday life to form better emotional wellness:

You should name your emotions! While you may think this is obvious and easy, just ask yourself how many emotions you can name in one count. People often struggle with communicating their emotions because they don’t name them properly. You can also feel a couple of different emotions simultaneously–making naming even harder. You can start by writing down how you’re feeling in a journal. It doesn’t have to be with words – you can use colors, scales or different shapes. You don’t necessarily have to do it every day, but the more often you do it, the clearer picture of your emotional states and progress you’ll have.



You should talk about your emotions! After naming your emotions, whether it’s in the journal or at loud to people around you, you should practice talking about your emotions. For example talking about how long do you feel a certain emotion, what could be causing it or asking for any kind of help while you’re going trough that emotional state. Even if you’re having a problem naming an emotion on your own, try and talk about it with your family members, friends, colleagues or some other people in your life. A lot of things tend to get easier when we are trying to be more open and honest about our emotions, while at the same time taking into account other people’s emotions.


You should use art! There are some situations in which you may not feel like sharing your emotional experience with another person or even writing about it. In that kind of situation, it’s very useful to use different art channels. You could draw, paint, sew, model, sing, play an instrument,… There are various ways to express yourself – try and find one that is fun, interesting and helpful to you. Furthermore, not only making art, but also experiencing it in the form of visiting museums, galleries or reading poetry can be beneficial for your emotional wellness. In their review, Mastandrea, Fagioli and Biasi (2019) have gathered proof from different research that showed that aesthetic experience improves health and well-being among individuals.



You should practice relaxation and self-regulation techniques. Techniques we have represented in the blog about physical well-being, such as breathing, are also implacable when working on this domain. If you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, try doing yoga or practicing meditation.

You should take care of your other domains. As we have mentioned in our first blog, all of the domains are very dependable on one another. It’s no different for the emotional one, especially connected to the physical domain. Not taking care properly of your body and physical state (e.g. not sleeping enough) could result in irritability and heightened stress.


If you would like to learn more about specific domains of wellness and interesting findings that have been discovered, stay tuned because soon, we will bring you more intriguing content!

And if you would like to attend our next LeafCo Community meetup which focuses on emotional wellness, click here and check out our workshop!

References

Abbass, A. (2005). The case for specialty-specific core curriculum on emotions and health. Royal Coll Outlook, 4, 5-7.

Hudson-Vitale, C. and Waltz, R. M. (2020). Caring for our colleagues: Wellness and support strategies for remote library teams. College & Research Libraries News, 81(10), 494.

Leafgren, F. (1990). Being a man can be hazardous to your health: Life-styles issues. In D. Moore & F. Leafgren (Eds.), Problemsolving strategies and interventions for men in conflict (pp. 265–311). Alexandria, VA: American Association for Counseling and Development.

Mastandrea, S., Fagioli, S. and Biasi, V. (2019). Art and psychological well-being: Linking the brain to the aesthetic emotion. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 739.

Patel, J. and Patel, P. (2019). Consequences of repression of emotion: Physical health, mental health and general well being. International Journal of Psychotherapy Practice and Research, 1(3), 16.

Roscoe, L. J. (2009). Wellness: A review of theory and measurement for counselors. Journal of Counseling & Development, 87(2), 216-226.


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