Man’s obsession with physical fitness is evident wherever you go. There is a phenomenal increase in the growth of fitness clubs and gyms. People have become conscious of their body image that they are willing to go the extra mile just to have the same sculptured body like those that are usually splashed in the pages of the magazines, billboards, TV, and movie screens. People try to find sensible and sustainable ways to achieve and maintain a physically fit body, yet tend to overlook another important aspect of their well-being: their emotional health.
It has always been said that a healthy body cannot be divorced from a healthy mind or a healthy spirit. Emotional health is considered an integral part of man’s overall wellness. Neglecting your emotional health can damage your physical health in the process. Research has shown that one of the leading contributors to illness is stress caused by unresolved emotional issues.
Psychologists believe that emotions, such as fear, joy, sadness, and anger are mental responses to events, circumstances, people, or our own thoughts and memories. They course through our conscious and unconscious mind at critical junctures or during seemingly inconsequential moments of our lives.
Biologists, on the other hand, tell us that our emotions are rooted in self-preservation, triggering physiological reactions that enable us to find food, escape danger, and reproduce. In his work entitled Emotional Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman pointed out that, “…all emotions are, in essence, impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us.”
Emotions have also evolved into facial expressions and body language so that each member of the group can signal his or her wants and needs to other members. As John D. Mayer, a leading expert in the study of emotions, has remarked: “Emotions convey information…about relationships.”
Emotions are so powerful and actually possess the ability to make us sick, as well as provide healing. Emotions are relayed to the immune system through the autonomic nervous system. When people experience anxiety, depression, and other painful emotions, the immune system can be affected and may cause risk for a whole host of illnesses. In the same way, having a healthy emotional outlook in life can boost the resistance against disease.
Mayer has emphasized, “People can reason with emotions in the same way they reason with cognitive information. So you can solve emotional problems just as mathematicians solve math problems.” However, he also acknowledged that some emotions, such as grief and anger, can be harder to control or reason with. The interplay of various emotions make that form of “reasoning” very difficult.
Not all experts agree that human beings are born with a full range of emotions. Instead, some theorize that people were born with instincts and urges, along with an innate capacity for feeling. As people grow older, they develop personalities and nurture relationships with others, which are valuable experiences that help them expand their feelings into full-fledged emotions. Having a complete range of emotion is important for overall health and well-being.
Emotional health consists of five key components:
1. Being aware of your emotions. Emotionally healthy people are in touch with their emotions and can identify and acknowledge them as experience.
2. Being able to process your emotions. After connecting with their emotions, emotionally healthy people develop appropriate ways of expressing them.
3. Being sensitive to other people and their emotions and having the ability to empathize. The ability to identify their own emotions enables emotionally healthy people to identify emotions in others and to have an intuitive sense of what it feels like to experience them.
4. Being self-empowered. Emotionally healthy people honor their emotions, which empowers them to fulfill their goals.
5. Being in healthy relationships. Using their emotional intelligence and empathy, emotionally healthy people build and maintain strong, functioning relationships.
Just as emotional health can affect a person’s physical health, the same is true with one’s lifestyle making a direct impact on emotional health. Vitamins and minerals stimulates the production of chemicals in the brain. These are known as neurotransmitters that regulate our physical and mental health functions, including the way we process emotions. Minor deficiencies of these nutrients can lead to depression and irritability, as well as hamper our ability to concentrate and stay motivated.
Definitely, unhealthy foods can adversely affect emotional health. Excessive intake of caffeine demonstrate many of the same physiological and psychological symptoms as people suffering from anxiety, while a diet with too much sugar has been linked to depression, aggression, and impaired judgment.
Many experts believe that people with strong spiritual fervor tend to have healthier immune systems and are less prone to depression and high blood pressure. It can be surmised that the faith of religious adherents gave them an enhanced sense of well-being which helped reduce their levels of stress.