By Erica Ford
Imagine you’re driving to work and hit a traffic jam. You hit the brake and your coffee spills in the front seat. You make your way through traffic and arrive at the office to find a world of responsibilities at your job. As you start your work day, it becomes hard to focus due to the external stressors you carried in with you. Perhaps you did not get any sleep last night or you’re worried about family, stressed over bills, or awaiting a test result.
We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. What does emotional wellbeing have to do with your stress levels, inner peace, family relationships, and work performance?
Boosting emotional wellbeing is not about stopping or avoiding stressful or negative emotions. Emotions are a normal and necessary part of life. Emotional wellbeing comes from enhancing emotional awareness, emotional regulation, and emotional recovery. That means increasing emotional wellbeing is entirely possible – we just have to build some key skills. Here are some ways to do it:
Practice emotional awareness – Emotional awareness often emerges from engaging in self-reflection – What are we feeling? Why are we feeling these things? Was there a specific trigger? What might help us stop feeling these things? When we're not aware of our emotions, we may engage in behaviors that hurt our emotional wellbeing. When we pay more attention to our emotions, we'll begin to learn which situations, people, or thoughts affect our emotions and as a result, we can take actions that help us have more enjoyable emotions.
Practice mindful acceptance – Mindfulness involves emotional awareness, but it also includes emotional acceptance. Emotional acceptance is when we experience emotions without judging. This helps prevent the development of secondary negative emotions. For example, if you feel guilty about feeling angry, then guilt is a secondary emotion. Acceptance of our negative emotions helps prevent these extra negative emotions from emerging. To practice acceptance, try to let your emotions come and go without labeling them as good or bad. Just let them be. This skill can be cultivated using mindfulness meditation. Work through your emotions and stay focused on your priorities. Try not to let a negative experience derail you from your day. If you find yourself facing a stressful situation, take 5-10 minutes in quiet or go for a meditation walk. Practice positive self-talk during those quiet moments. Think, What is your responsibility in the situation? What is in your control? What did you do well? How should you respond next time?
Redirect your attention – Another emotional wellbeing strategy involves re-directing your attention away from dwelling on the bad and moving towards the good. Refocusing your attention helps you to continue to move forward. Amid your situation, focus on aligning your goals, your personal life, and your professional life with balance. For example, if we find ourselves focusing on the worst things in our lives or a situation, we should shift our attention to focus on the good parts. It's easier said than done, but research shows that training ourselves to focus on neutral components instead of the negative can reduce anxiety (Amir et al.,2009).
Practice reappraisal – Reappraisal is an emotion regulation strategy that involves reinterpreting a stressful situation in a more positive light. As a result, we feel better, and over time, can see boosts in emotional wellbeing. You can practice reappraising situations by listing things that are good in different situations. For example, how is this an opportunity to grow, what did you learn, and what are the good parts? Reappraisal is a skill, so the more you practice it, the easier it can become.
Try emotional distancing – Emotional distancing involves imagining yourself as “a fly on the wall” when you are going through a hard time. Or, you could imagine you’re from the future looking back on your current self. For example, after a disagreement, think about how you'll feel about this conversation in a week, month, or year. As "the fly on the wall," what did you observe about your reactions, communication skills, and leadership? By using emotional distancing, we are able to take a step back and become more aware of our emotions. (Bruehlman-Senecal& Ayduk, 2015).
Envision Positivity – When we envision positive things, our brains produce similar signals as if we were experiencing those things in reality. Envisioning positivity can be such a powerful tool for wellbeing. A personal anecdote: as a cross country runner in college, our coach would meet with us early in the morning before our race and help us to cast vision. My coach would ask me to envision myself running my race with endurance and crossing the finish line. A few questions he would ask our team: § What do you feel like when you are crossing the finish line? § If you hit the runners wall, what did you do to proceed? § Where did you keep your gaze during the race? My entire mindset throughout the race was covered with positive vision. When my body would feel depleted as if I could not go another step in the race, I would remember the mental image of crossing the finish line with strength. The key to finishing the race well was staying focused on the vision set at the beginning and not looking back. Looking back would result in losing time and possibly getting off track. Let’s put this preparation for a race into your daily life or at the office. Where do you keep your gaze? How do you pivot and proceed when you face a hurdle? What do you desire to feel like each day as you fulfill your responsibility within the company you work for? When times are tough in life, we might not have a lot of positive things to focus on or think about. By casting positive vision, we help our brains experience positive emotions nonetheless. By casting positive vision, we provide ourselves a sense of hope, anticipation, and excitement. When you cast vision, you are prompted to establish tangible goals to move towards where you want to be. So, when you find yourself in a rough spot, try to envision yourself in a good place to generate more positive emotions.
Share your positive moments – By sharing our positive moments, we help the healthy emotions we experience in these moments to grow, expand, and last longer. When you focus on the positive emotions, you are increasing the happy hormones in your brain called dopamine and serotonin. When something good happens to you, show, tell, or share your experience with someone you care about. For example, you could send a text to a friend or call them on the phone to celebrate the good that is happening. Be proud of how far you have come. Cultivate a daily habit of celebrating the small wins in your life. The small wins lead up to daily wins. The daily wins lead up to monthly wins, and the monthly wins lead up to yearly wins. Win the day, every day!
If you would like more resources on how to boost your emotional wellbeing or emotional wellbeing in your workplace, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amir, N., Beard, C., Taylor, C. T., Klumpp, H., Elias, J., Burns, M., & Chen, X. (2009). Attention training in individuals with generalized social phobia: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology,77(5), 961. Bruehlman-Senecal, E., & Ayduk, O. (2015). This too shall pass: Temporal distance and the regulation of emotional distress. Journal of personality and social psychology, 108(2), 356.