Ironically, the Wellness Wheel dimension that people struggle the most with is also the same one that we are constantly experiencing throughout the day. Emotions. I’ll admit as being one of those folks that thought feelings was the original F-word. I not only suppressed my emotions, but acted as if I didn’t have very many of them. The true story was that I was good at shoving my emotions under a rock and forging ahead with tasks and chores until life caught up with me and… I would explode. Not fun for me or anyone around me.
If you notice, that story is written in past tense because I’ve worked really, really hard with the guidance of teachers, mentors, and a significant other, all of whom not only see through my non-emotional facade, but actually encourage and
invite me to share and express my feelings. But why the heck would one want to tap into those places where anger, sadness, frustration, overwhelm, despair, loneliness, and fear lurk in the shadows of our inner selves? The answer to that question is relatively simple, tapping into those places also gives you access to joy, excitement, hope, happiness, contentment, relaxation, fulfillment, and peace. We cannot separate the good from the bad, the easy from the hard, because it is from the same place inside us where we access the range of feelings that life presents us.
The concept of emotional intelligence and the impact it has on overall wellness has been well documented and discussed over the past decade. A quick google search will result in books, blogs, academic articles, medical centers, psychology journals, all talking about the importance of our emotional aspect of life. There are stories about how the most successful people were not the smartest or hardest working in high school or college but the one who knew how to make people feel comfortable and relaxed around them. Workplace research documents how it’s not the most intellectually intelligent people who get promotions but the ones with the best social skills. A series of longitudinal studies have shown that IQ has little relation to success but handling frustration, controlling emotions, and getting along with others were the highest predictors of success.
The work involved in the feeling dimension of the wellness wheel is not stifling or avoiding emotions, but learning how to embrace, honor, and use them as tools. We need to give ourselves the permission to express what we are feeling, without criticism and without judgement. And then, once we are aware of our feelings and take ownership of them, we can determine if more needs to be done. For example, do we need to have a conversation with someone who has hurt our feelings, or do we need to talk to our boss about feeling undervalued and taken advantage of? Or do we need to tell our spouse that we are feeling stressed and need some extra support? Creating space for those feelings also creates space for all the pleasant emotions we love to feel.
We believe there are many benefits of fostering and honoring our feelings. Here are a few:
- Allowing a range of feelings gives us more choices so that we don’t get stuck in one emotion. By developing a broader awareness of all of our feelings, we can help move ourselves out of the more negative ones into the more positive ones.
- Ownership of what we feel can help develop more positive self-talk. If we recognize the hard feelings we make space for the good feelings and we can help ourselves out of states of depression and negativity and into places where we can manage our stress, foster better health, have a more positive outlook on life, and feel more energized.
- The link between high stress and physical illness and disease is well documented. Emotional awareness and resiliency leads to overall better health.
- When we recognize our own emotions and the emotions of others we can connect with others on a deeper and more authentic level. We can better practice empathy and compassion when we are aware that people need them.
Fostering the feeling dimension does not eliminate those negative feelings. It doesn’t even lessen the li
kelihood that we will feel the bad. It does means we can bring ourselves back to the good, have stronger connections with others, and live in a better overall state of wellness and health.
We know this is a tough dimension to cultivate, so our challenges will help you develop your capacity for feeling one emotion at a time.