Emotional Hygiene,
February 7, 2020


February means Valentine’s Day and that has us thinking about love. Self-love, that is.

On any given day we take for granted that we will brush our teeth, wash our hands, and tend to tasks around the house. We consider this basic personal hygiene. Somehow, though, we have kept another type of hygiene, emotional hygiene, in the background.

Thanks to advances in brain science, we know a lot more about how to best take care of our mental health day-by-day. So this Valentine’s Day let’s make a vow that our daily self-care must include the emotional as well as the physical.

A 2015 TED talk by psychologist Guy Winch brought attention to the specific framing of emotional health as hygiene. Winch outlines 7 main ways we can center our emotional health.

  1. Don’t ignore emotional pain
  • Though the stigma around psychological hurt can be hard to overcome, just like physical damage we need to listen to ourselves when we are hurting and seek whatever help we can
  1. Reframe your reactions
  • When something goes wrong, it can be hard not to immediately jump to what you did wrong or why it’s in some way your fault. Remember to take into account the other factors at play, and keep from internalizing any small failure as a personal downfall
  1. Watch your self-esteem
  • Much like in the step above, blaming ourselves for everything and internalizing a negative self-image only hurts our self-esteem further. Be as compassionate towards yourself as you would be to anyone else
  1. Be positive!
  • Even in our worst moments we all have something positive we can try to think about. When negativity feels inescapable, hone in on something or someone that makes you feel happy and motivated
  1. Search for the upside
  • Life is always going to involve pains and losses, but we can try to search for the meaning behind a painful moment to help us frame it in a healthier way
  1. Don’t let guilt build
  • Like any emotion, there is a reason to sometimes experience guilt, it can help us learn and grow, but when guilt starts to build and linger for too long, it can get in the way of day-to-day life and impact how we see ourselves. The art of moving on from past mistakes isn’t easy, but it’s vital to maintaining a healthy self-image
  1. Remember your individuality
  • Though there are guidelines, like those listed above, that can help us all with our emotional well-being, as people we have very different needs. Find what healing practices work best for you and get comfortable with them.

Keep in mind that having good emotional health doesn’t mean you’re always happy or free from negative emotions. It’s about having the skills and resources to manage the ups and downs of day-to-day life.

When you’re equipped with the skills to manage your emotions, it’s easier for you to connect with others and show more empathy and compassion. You’re also better able to hold arguments and talk through your feelings.

So this Valentine’s take a moment to commit to your emotional health – not only you benefit, but so do all those you love.

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