What is emotional health? Definition, how it's tied to mental health and overall wellbeing

Life can be hard.

Chalk it up to deadlines, disagreements, money problems – the list goes on and on. And then there are more serious pressures like unhealthy relationships or trauma.

We all face stress. And our emotional health depends on our ability to cope with those pressures.

The good news is that as a society, we are getting better at understanding the importance of our mental, emotional and behavioral health. And the movement to reduce mental health stigma has saved and improved lives.

One important way to address these stigmas is by changing medical language. Understanding the meaning of emotional health, and having it become a part of our lexicon, are important steps.

What is the meaning of emotional health?

Emotional health speaks to your wellbeing. It's often used interchangeably with terms like mental health and behavioral health, but Dr. Anisha Patel-Dunn, a psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at LifeStance Health, says a good way to think about emotional health is as a tool to prevent mental health issues.

“Instead of being reactive and seeking out treatment when you’re experiencing more acute symptoms of a mental health condition, we should encourage people to proactively prioritize their emotional well-being.”

What are some of the characteristics of emotional health?

Patel-Dunn says that characteristics of emotional health are dependent on the person. She further explains, “Humans are inherently social beings and need a certain level of social interaction, but that will look different for everyone. A good marker of emotional health is feeling like you are getting your emotional needs met. However, if someone is an introvert and enjoys alone time, that doesn’t mean they’re isolated or depressed. It’s a spectrum unique to each person.”

How can I improve my emotional health?

Dr. Lauren Ng, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Los Angeles and director of the Treatment and Research for the Underserved with Stress and Trauma (TRUST) Lab, describes some of the barriers to emotional health treatment:

  • Not being able to afford payments for treatment.

  • Differences in insurance and what's covered.

  • Lack of time to seek treatment.

  • A lack of providers that come from the same communities as the patients they are treating.

Patel-Dunn adds that people are busy, and work, caregiver responsibilities and personal commitments can get in the way.

But she says there are different techniques that are an efficient way to get in touch with your emotional health. “This could look like finding five minutes a day for a meditation or mindfulness practice, staying active, eating nutritious food, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, spending time with friends and family. Opportunities for both social interaction and solo reflection are great ways to get in touch with what brings you joy.”

Read more about mental health, trauma and stress here:

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is emotional health? How it impacts mental, emotional wellness