How can we stay Emotionally Healthy?
We are familiar with talking about our physical health and how we need to eat as well as we can and keep as active as we can in order to thrive, but what about our emotional health? What do we need to do in order to stay emotionally well?
We are all born with innate knowledge programmed into us from our genes. Throughout life we experience this knowledge as feelings of physical and emotional need. These feelings evolved over millions of years and, whatever our cultural background, are our common biological inheritance. They are the driving force that motivates us to become fully human and succeed in whatever environment we find ourselves in.
Our Physical Needs
As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breathe, water, nutritious food and sufficient sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them, we quickly die. In addition we also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. We instinctively seek sufficient and secure shelter where we can grow and reproduce ourselves and bring up our young. These physical needs are intimately bound up with our emotional needs.
Our Emotional Needs
Emotions create distinctive psycho-biological states in us and drive us to take action. The emotional needs nature has programmed us with are there to connect us to the external world, particularly to other people, and survive in it. They seek their fulfillment through the way we interact with the environment. Consequently, when these needs are not met in the world, nature ensures we suffer considerable distress — anxiety, anger, depression etc. — and our expression of distress, in whatever form it takes, impacts on those around us. People whose emotional needs are met in a balanced way do not suffer mental health problems – it is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species. There is widespread agreement as to the nature of our emotional needs. Some of the main ones are:
• Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
• Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
• Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
• Emotional intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts ‘n’ all”
• Feeling part of a wider community
• Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
• Sense of status within social groupings
• Sense of competence and achievement
• Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.
Need some advice and support?
If you would like to talk over some of the issues raised in this article, in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.