We spend a lot of time thinking about our physical health, but our mental well-being is equally important, particularly our emotional health. And while mental health and emotional health are linked, the terms are not interchangeable.
In this article, we break down the difference between mental and emotional health and explore five keys to improving your emotional well-being.
What is emotional health? Isn’t that the same as mental health?
Since our emotional health is tied to our mental health, it is common to think the two terms mean the same thing. But mental health refers to how we process information we encounter, while emotional health is about the feelings evoked when the data processes.
But the two work as a team and the ability of one determines the fate of the other. For example, if anxious thoughts limit your cognitive ability, you are going to have a harder time assessing the situation and its circumstances, thus leading to an inappropriate emotional response.
Mental health and emotional health may be different, but there is a proven link between the two, which is why taking care of your mental health is so important.
5 keys to improving your emotional health
Now that you understand how emotional health works as a team with mental health, we wanted to share these five tips and offer further reading on ways you can improve your emotional well-being.
Connect with others
The last few years have made a significant impact on how we connect with others. While in-person gathering still stands the test of time, more people are utilizing digital means of communication (text messages, social media, etc.) to stay in touch. But no matter what method you use, human beings are wired to be social creatures. And the science backs this up: research has concluded that social connections reduce our levels of stress.
Further reading: Learn how to connect with children and grandchildren
Move your body
The benefits of exercise go far beyond our physical health: our mental and emotional health also benefits from moving our bodies. The best part is that you don’t have to purchase expensive equipment or carve out hours a day to reap the benefits. Just 22 minutes of moderate exercise a day (such as walking or yoga) meets the American Heart Association’s recommendation for daily activity.
Further reading: 3 ways to exercise at any age and fitness level
Engage in a hobby
It can be easy to dismiss hobbies as a luxury, something that we only have time for when everything else gets done. But hobbies are more than a way to pass the time: they engage various parts of our brain, reduce stress and encourage us to socialize. So pursue a hobby you already have or try something new, like writing, gardening or card games. And use community resources like parks and recreation departments, senior centers and local publications to find other people to enjoy your hobby with.
Further reading: Retired? Here are 4 hobbies to improve your well-being
We all learned the Golden Rule as kids: treat others as you want to be treated. But that phrase is more than just teaching good manners: it’s also science! Even giving and receiving the simplest acts of kindness activate the pleasure zone of your brain and release a chemical called oxytocin, which regulates social interactions and emotions. In other words, you feel the warm fuzzies. So be generous with your acts of kindness and bask in the good vibes that follow.
Further reading: 4 simple things to instantly boost your mood
Practice being mindful
Mindfulness is more than a buzzy internet term: the act of being present in the moment has a multitude of mental and emotional health benefits. And you don’t need to meditate to achieve this state: just pay attention to your surroundings. If you are watching a comedy on TV, what is making you laugh? If you are cooking spaghetti for dinner, what does the sauce smell like? Taking the time to understand the mental feedback of the moment will help you become better in tune with yourself.
Further reading: The mental health benefits of mindfulness
The bottom line: Our emotional well-being is an important pillar of our mental health, so we must take care of it like we would any other part of our body. Connecting with others, finding hobbies, practicing mindfulness, being generous and engaging in exercise are just a few simple strategies to get you started.