What is Emotional Health?

This blog is part of a series exploring the seven assets of emotional health.

Emotional health is a set of malleable skills and beliefs which impact on our thoughts, feelings and behaviour in relation to our social and emotional functioning.

There are seven components (or “assets”) of Emotional Health:

Key features of Emotional Health

Our emotional health isn’t fixed but continuously changes and develops throughout our life

Emotional health can be improved through targeted support towards one or more of the assets. Alternatively, the assets can be developed organically by being immersed in an emotionally healthy environment and through emotionally healthy relationships.

Emotional health is founded on an asset-based model

The focus is on growing and developing each of the assets, nurturing skills and positive habits of mind, rather than identifying deficits and what is “wrong” or absent.

Emotional health is about resilience not happiness

Emotional health isn’t about being “happy” or free from negative emotions all of the time, this is our emotional wellbeing. Instead, it is about developing the protective emotional health assets which are important both for day-to-day life and for dealing with challenges when they do occur. This will support individuals to pursue positive courses of action, sustain a stable sense of self and maintain healthy relationships, all of which are important for good mental health and wellbeing.

Our emotional health is based on the interaction of the assets

While each of the seven assets is important in their own right, it is their collective whole and the interplay between them that forms our emotional health. Each individual asset supports and influences each of the others, for example, being aware of our own thoughts and feelings, will increase our ability to be empathic towards others, which will in improve our relationship skills.

An individual’s emotional health is shaped by their psychosocial environment

The different environments that we are immersed in within our daily lives (such as our families, schools, workplaces etc.) can either support and enable, or undermine and disable, the emotional health assets of individuals. An emotionally healthy environment will support the emotional health of individuals within them. An emotionally healthy individual will have a reciprocally positive impact on their social environment.

Emotional health is an approach for everyone

Strategies and approaches that support positive emotional health are universally beneficial and relevant for everyone, at any time of their life. Having a “good” emotional health supports a range of positive outcomes, including improved relationships, increases in wellbeing, reduced mental health problems, improved life prospects, etc.

Emotional health is a preventative approach

Emotional health is about equipping individuals with the protective “assets” and skills to support both their own mental health and wellbeing, and support the mental health and wellbeing of others. Being in an emotionally healthy environment will also be supportive for individuals who do have poor wellbeing and/or mental health.

What makes emotional health different to mental health?

The term “mental health” is usually used within the context of mental illness or mental ill-health. Mental health support predominantly adopts a targeted approach, centred around individuals who have, or are at risk of developing, mental health problems.

Emotional health, on the other hand, adopts a universal approach. It acknowledges the benefits of each of the emotional health assets for everyone, regardless of whether or not they have poor mental health or wellbeing.

What makes emotional health different to wellbeing?

Wellbeing refers to a person’s emotional state at a given moment in time. Positive wellbeing is the absence of difficult emotions and the presence of positive ones. In contrast, emotional health refers to the underlying set of skills, beliefs and habits of mind that equip an individual to manage the ups and downs of day-to-day life, build positive relationships, and fulfil their potential.

These skills are all essential for supporting wellbeing but do not necessarily ensure positive wellbeing.

For example, experiencing the death of a loved one will affect a person’s emotional wellbeing. They will likely experience a whole range of difficult emotions and this is an emotionally healthy response. Their underlying emotional health in this situation may not change. However, having a good emotional health will help an individual recognise and manage the emotions surrounding bereavement.

What makes emotional health different to emotional intelligence?

There are substantial overlaps between the seven assets of emotional health and the five areas identified in Daniel Goleman’s construct of emotional intelligence. However, unlike emotional intelligence, emotional health includes beliefs: an individual’s beliefs both about themselves and about others will impact on how the other emotional health assets are enacted.

Emotional intelligence also views the five areas as a set of within-individual characteristics whereas the underlying principle of emotional health is that emotional health is based on the interaction between the individual and their wider psychosocial environment(s).

An individual’s environmental context will not only help shape and develop their social and emotional competencies, but will also either enable or disable existing assets. Emotional health support therefore involves creating an emotionally healthy environment in which everyone can thrive.

Jessica Tanner

Research Lead

#jessicatanner #emotionalhealth #mentalhealth #emotionalintelligence

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