Beyond Wellbeing: Laying a Foundation of Emotional Health by Peter Leonard
Like all of us my life has been a series of ups and downs, of challenges and joys, of disappointments and achievements. I have had periods of poor mental health and have sought help, both medical and therapeutic. Throughout it all my emotional health has remained strong, and that is what has got me through the tough patches, has enabled me to get the help I needed. Good emotional health was the fence at the top of the cliff stopping me from falling, meaning I didn’t need treatment for a mental health crisis at the bottom.
Emotional health is the set of skills and beliefs that shape our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It is affected throughout our lives by our relationships and our experience of the relationships around us.
I have had a whole range of relationships in my life, some significant ones which are constant, others which have come and gone. Some of these have been personal and some professional, others have crossed both these boundaries. My good emotional health has enabled me to build and sustain these relationships, both for my benefit and the benefit of those I am or have been in relationship with.
Good emotional health is not about feeling happy all the time. For example, experiencing the death of someone close will affect a person’s emotional wellbeing, but will not necessarily change their underlying emotional health. Instead, having good emotional health will help an individual recognise and manage the emotions surrounding bereavement, to navigate them in a healthy way. Good emotional health is the ability to be aware of, to understand and to manage our whole range of emotions. Positive relationships support us to build healthy beliefs about ourselves and others.
There are seven aspects to good emotional health, and at Family Links the Centre for Emotional Health we like to call them assets. An asset is a positive thing which can be applied and developed for an individual or a community’s benefit The seven assets are:
Self-belief – The set of beliefs we hold about our self-identity, including our skills, abilities, and sense of value and worth.
Self-awareness – Our awareness of our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Self-regulation – Our ability to manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Self-agency – The set of beliefs we hold about our capacity to influence our lives and wider environment.
Beliefs about others – The set of beliefs we hold about others, including how trustworthy they are and how they will respond to us.
Social awareness – Our awareness of the thoughts and feelings of others, and the impact our behaviour may have.
Relationship skills – Our ability to form and maintain positive relationships with others.
® Family Links the Centre for Emotional Health
Each of these assets are important but their collective interaction forms our emotional health. This emotional health framework is the foundation that supports our mental health and our wellbeing, it is a proactive and protective approach to our mental health. People use the expression “We need to stop pulling people out of the river and go upstream to stop them falling in.” Addressing emotional health, developing these seven assets, is going upstream and doing that work, this is why emotional health is so important. Developing good emotional health is the preventative work which not only helps to address current mental health but also creates positive environments for people to live and work in.
This is not about creating some unattainable Utopia but rather equipping us all with the skills to deal with the tough times when they come. My good emotional health did not stop my poor mental health from occurring, but it meant I could handle it better. It meant I could see what was happening (self-awareness), I could seek help (self-agency, belief about others and relationship skills) and then I could manage it (self-regulation and self-belief).
We all have the ability to develop these assets. How amazing would it have been if as a child growing up these assets or competencies had been addressed? How amazing would it be if everyone was brought up and educated to include these aspects of life? How different might society be?
These assets are both about us but also about those around us, so improving the assets which focus on us inevitably improve the assets which focus on others. In addition to creating emotionally healthy individuals we can create emotional healthy environments which contribute to emotionally healthy individuals which then contributes to an emotionally healthy environment….. and so a positive reinforcing circle is created.
Good emotional health is transformational for us as individuals, for our homes, workplaces and wider communities.
® Family Links the Centre for Emotional Health
About the author
Peter Leonard is the Chief Executive at Family Links. Family Links the Centre for Emotional Health is a charity whose vision is for everyone to live an emotionally healthy life. They do this by promoting an approach to life and relationships that equips and supports families and communities to be emotionally healthy. They provide high quality training courses and resources for professionals working with people in a variety of settings including communities, education and the workplace. For more information, please visit their website and follow them on social media: https://www.familylinks.org.uk/