Words of Wellness: Emotional Wellness: The Ability and Skills to Express Feelings

NYAPRS Enews: Journaling as a Wellness Tool; science and yoga to boost emotional well-being and mood; How can Music be useful?: A Self-Assessment about personal Emotional Wellness and Special Dates in May 2018 are tools included, with much more, can be found in this month’s edition of Words of Wellness.

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Emotional Wellness

This month, we look at emotional wellness—the ability and skills to express feelings, enjoy life, adjust to emotional challenges, cope with stress, and recover from traumatic life experiences.  This dimension affects, and is affected by, all of the other dimensions.  We will highlight some tools people find practical and useful including yoga, journaling, and mindfulness. (open WOW May 2018 PDF)

Yoga as a Wellness Tool

Yoga may help improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and boost emotional well-being and mood.  In addition to relieving stress, yoga can help build resilience to stress—the ability to bounce back when experiencing a difficult challenge. The complete history of Yoga is uncertain, but the earliest records discovered were etched into ancient stone 5000 years ago on the Indian sub-continent.  Yoga may be the oldest practice of self-development, teaching how to connect your mind, body, and spirit to help you live a more focused life.  The word Yoga comes from the ancient word yuj, which mean to unite or connect.

There are many forms of Yoga, both ancient and modern.  Hatha Yoga, introduced in the 15th century by Yogi Swatmarama, is now very popular. Yoga uses a series of poses, or body positions, often practiced in a specific order to create a flow. Different types of poses are used to increase flexibility, strength, and balance.  Over time, these poses help strengthen the body. Slow, deep breathing is coordinated with the poses. Breath control is calming physically.  Breath control also focuses awareness on the body while quieting stressful thoughts.  Meditation, which goes along with the Yoga poses, is a time to relax, quiet your mind, and for many enhances emotional wellness.  Being more centered can help you cope with hassles and problems that arise in your day to day life.  Many find Yoga helps them experience a better sleep quality. Yoga connects and centers your mind, and body. There are truly many physical and emotional benefits.  It is not a cure for stress or emotional imbalance but can be a useful tool. You can talk to your doctor on your next visit about adding Yoga to your self-care routine.

Learn more about science and yoga from this 16-minute video from the National Institutes of Health (National Center on Complementary and Integrative Health):  https://nccih.nih.gov/video/yoga

Journaling as a Wellness Tool 

Maintaining a diary or journal is a technique to support emotional wellness that has been in use for centuries.  One common way people use a journal is to record ideas or issues that frustrate them during the day, so they can relieve themselves of carrying the issue in their heads and hearts.  Another technique, which some identify as spanning the emotional and spiritual dimensions, is a “gratitude journal.”  A person keeping a gratitude journal often takes time daily to write of the things they did, received, or encountered during the day that made them feel grateful or fortunate.  This can be especially helpful to a person whose negative mood or depression creates challenges in completing their daily activities or limits their sense of enjoyment or satisfaction.  One person we know reports when she feel very depressed she writes in her journal a listing all the things she is thankful for.  Moving from the emotional to the physical dimension, journaling can be used to move activities from the automatic to the mindful.  One example of this is the keeping of a food diary, log, or journal.  Research demonstrates that recording a food diary can help people get better control of their eating, even if they don’t do it every day.  Food logs or journals are widely available in bookstores, are part of the popular Weight Watchers weight control program and are available as apps for smart phones.  Journals are used in many other ways to help people manage health conditions and improve their communication with supporters and professionals.  People with diabetes may keep a journal of their eating, physical activity, medication use, blood glucose readings, and any other symptoms.  A detailed journal or log can help people wanting to improve their sleep and manage other health challenges.  Journals are also used to help people manage pain conditions, breathing problems, and a variety of other health issues.

Journaling about topics that are interesting or inspiring can support intellectual wellness.  Journals are a key tool used in schools to help people structure their creative writing, graphic arts, and other academic pursuits.  Popular memoirs may have started as someone’s journal. The extensive journal/diary sections in larger bookstores often contain several examples of “gratitude journals.”  Some include a combination of inspirational quotes, artwork, and/or structured questions or sections.   If you’d like to try journaling, start with our booklet, Journaling: A Wellness Tool, free from https://www.center4healthandsdc.org/journaling-tool.html 

Music for Wellness

How can music be useful? Try any of these musical tips: • Listen to energizing music while exercising and see how fast the time goes, or how it affects your drive to perform during the workout. • Listen to relaxing music while studying and see how it affects your attention. • Listen to relaxing music while reading or writing. • Listen to relaxing music while meditating or before going to bed.

Many people find listening to and/or making music helps their emotional wellness. In addition, music can boost wellness in other dimensions; spiritual, intellectual, social (when you join with others), and even physical (when you dance, alone or with others, or exercise to music). Listening to music can enrich your environment, help you focus on the task at hand, or create a time for relaxing.  Making music can be a chance to develop a new skill and challenge your mind, if you are working on playing an instrument.  Singing is another way to make music.  A small study found that singing in a group helped participants improve or maintain their mental health and well-being.

For a truly inspiring story, check out the Australian Choir of Hard Knocks on YouTube and also.at their website http://www.choirofhopeandinspiration.com/our-journey

Self-Assessment

Emotional Wellness involves the ability and skills to express feelings, enjoy life, adjust to emotional challenges, cope with stress, and recover from traumatic life experiences. Rate each item using this scale: 4 If the item is Always True for you 3 If the item is Sometimes True for you 2 If the item is Rarely True for you 1 If the item is Never True for you

___ I accept responsibility for my actions. ___ I see challenges as opportunities for growth. ___ I believe that I have considerable control over my life. ___ I feel good about myself. ___ I am able to effectively cope with stress and tension. ___ I make time for hobbies or leisure pursuits. ___ I am able to recognize my personal shortcomings and learn from my mistakes. ___ I am able to recognize and express my feelings. ___ I express gratitude daily for the gifts I have.  ___ I am able to forgive people who distress me. ___ I view myself as a strong person. ___ I do things to increase my emotional wellness, such as listening to music, walking, meditation, etc. Total Score (out of a possible 48) SCORING KEY ✓ If you scored from 30 to 48 points, that’s excellent! You are clearly doing a lot for your emotional wellness.  ✓ If you scored from 15 to 29 points, you’re doing great though you can look over the items again and see where there are 2-3 areas you want to improve. ✓ If you scored from 0 to 14 points, review your responses, to see if there is one area you may want to improve. Read over some of the tips in this issue of Words of Wellness. Consider one things you may want to do. Build on what you are already doing well.

Special Dates in May 2018

May 1 is World Asthma Day. To learn more and download the logo, see http://ginasthma.org/wad/ May 6 is International No Diet Day. While there is no official sponsor for this day, you can see ideas and download the “Body Peace Kit” from http://womenshealthclinic.org/nodietday/ May 12 is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Day, planned to raise awareness of long-term immunological and neurological disorders, which include Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. For more info: https://www.may12th.org/ May 13-18 is Woman’s Health Week and starts on Mother’s Day every year. You can find lots of information and free resources at https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19 is Hepatitis Testing Day. The CDC recommends Hepatitis C testing for people born 1945-1965. Find a short online assessment and free resources at www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/heppromoresources.htm May 21-25 is Bike to Work Week. Data,  posters, and other promotional materials  are available from: https://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Wellness Tips

Here are some ideas to consider to strengthen your emotional wellness. Stress and Tension Sometimes you can prevent feeling stressed through better time management or organizing your belongings.  If possible, avoid situations and people trigger you.  Deep breathing and relaxation activities can help, along with yoga or journaling (see articles in this issue).  A short self-compassion meditation or a walk outside can shift your perspective.  Remember, you may not be able to avoid all stressors, but you may be able to change how they affect your emotional and spiritual dimensions!  Leisure Activities Use your free time to do something enjoyable and different from your work and other daily tasks.  Creative activities, like art or crafts, can give you a sense of accomplishment while reducing your stress level.  Try spending time with others and creative time alone to see what is best for you.  Think about the hobbies or activity you did when you were young.  See the article on music in this issue for another way to boost your wellness. Taking Charge We can never have complete control over life—things do happen that we don’t expect.  Sometimes these present challenges.  At other times, such surprises bring gifts.  Consider the Serenity Prayer, which focuses on accepting what you can’t change and changing what you can.  Recognizing where you have control in your life and taking charge of those areas will help you realize there is a lot that you do/can control.  We know from experience that, when we take charge of our wellness self-care, we can feel better.   Gratitude Feeling grateful and “counting your blessings” has been the advice of many religions and wise grandparents over many centuries.  You might try a gratitude journal (see the article in this issue). Recently, scientists are getting on board and showing that gratitude is good for you.

For more information, contact pswarbrick@cspnj.org CSPNJ Wellness Institute 8 Spring Street, Freehold, NJ 07728