What is Emotional Health (And What it is Not)?

Emotional Health definition Mike Oppland

Emotions can be wonderful, joyous expressions. However, they can also be detrimental to our health and well-being.

The big questions when it comes to emotions are, why are they sometimes very difficult to control and, how can we learn to foster emotions in a skilled and healthy manner?

To answer these questions, we first need to determine what emotional health is.


Defining Emotional Health

The Help Guide, a website dedicated to giving accurate mental health information, stated in a 2016 article that emotionally healthy people are can control their emotions and behavior. These people also display resilience in troubling situations and build strong, lasting relationships. So how does one work towards that vision of emotional health?

Emotional health is not merely the dearth of mental illness, just as the absence of depression does not mean that someone is happy or emotionally healthy.

It is also important to note that like any desired state, emotional health requires dedication and effort. A healthy emotional state doesn’t usually happen without putting work into it (The Help Guide, 2016).


The Characteristics Of Emotional Health

Emotional health is steeped in positive characteristics, meaning that positive emotions are pertinent to achieving emotional health.

The Help Guide (2016) describes emotionally healthy people as possessing:

  • A sense of contentment;
  • zest for life;
  • The ability to deal with stress and obstacles;
  • A sense of meaning and purpose in life;
  • The flexibility to learn and adapt;
  • The ability to balance work and play;
  • The capability to create and maintain relationships;
  • High levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Positive psychologists have been studying emotional health for over four decades and now believe that emotional health is more than just optimism; instead, it is an authentic understanding of what truly makes us happier (Vann, 2009).


What It Is Not: Busting The Myths

It’s healthy to give yourself the freedom to experience negative emotions and know that it won’t affect your overall health and happiness. Hiding these emotions for fear that they will ruin your overall contentment is counterproductive.

Being emotionally healthy does not imply the absence of all negative emotions, and faking positive emotions when they are not genuinely felt is a misguided, though common, approach.

When we consistently blame other people and situations for the emotions we are experiencing, we are not emotionally healthy and instead lack emotional awareness. Unfortunately, we can live our entire lives without ever truly comprehending or achieving emotional health.


Putting It Into Practice

An important point of clarification is the difference between mental illness and emotional health. There are many people who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses that require more than what positive psychology can offer.

While positive psychology can have a strong influence on emotional health, curing mental illnesses often requires multidisciplinary, long-term intervention strategies of which positive psychology is just one component. This does not mean that people suffering from mental illnesses cannot eventually achieve emotional health, it just means that they may require more input over a longer period on time.

While positive psychology aims to uncover methods for achieving emotional health and well-being for all, it is important to understand that obtaining emotional health is the subjective quest of each individual, and it is by no means an easy task. It takes commitment, practice, and persistence.


Want To Know More About Emotional Health?

Visit The Help Guide for more information, tips, and practices.

  • The Help Guide (2016). Improving emotional health: Strategies and tips for good mental health.  Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/improving-emotional-health.htm.
  • Vann, M. (2009). The power of positive psychology. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/understanding/the-role-of-positive-psychology.aspx

About the Author

Mike Oppland, BA, MBA, is a professional basketball player, basketball coach, Kindergarten teaching assistant, Physical Education teacher, and English teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Calumet College of Saint Joseph and an MBA in Sports Business from Saint Leo University.


  1. Sarah

    ThAnks Mike, helpful article, I am responsible for a large number of telephone workers and am trying to research ways to help them with resilience

  2. animascoaching

    Hey. Mike you have done a wonderful job. I enjoy whilst reading your article as it contains a useful information for reader.

    • Mike Oppland

      Thank you very much for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read the article. Glad it was useful for you. Have a great day!

  3. Irina

    I know and I do agree that “emotional health is reached when you learn to accept yourself”. Though for me it’s not so easy sometimes to accept myself. It’s so important to put our knowledge to practice. Thank you for useful article, Mike.

    • Mike Oppland

      Hi Irina. Thank you for your comment and thank you for reading the article. Acceptance is a major obstacle for many people but it can be practiced in your daily life just like anything else. I think it is normal for many people to struggle with acceptance, but it is also important to realize that just because your mind is telling you that you shouldn’t accept yourself, doesn’t mean you have to believe it 🙂 Once you learn to separate the authentic you from the one your mind creates, than acceptance becomes much easier. Thanks again.


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