There is no denying that emotional health is a big part of overall mental health. However, the two terms are not necessarily interchangeable, as popular belief may lead you to think. Read more below about the role that emotion actually serves in mental health, and learn about how you can understand your own mental health and well-being!
What Role Does Emotion Serve in Mental Health?
by Madison Wright
When speaking of mental wellness, things like self-care and doing what make you happy are often brought up. But happy is an emotion. What role does emotion serve in mental health? It may seem like mental health is all about not being sad or experiencing negative emotions, but emotions are just one aspect of psychological well being. Not all people that appear happy are mentally well, and certainly not every person that seems unhappy is not mentally well.
So what is the difference between mental health and emotional health? Well mental health refers to cognitive functioning, like attention, memory and comprehension (McDiriad, 2013). This refers more to the actual brain and if it is able to conduct cognitive functions. There are many factors that can influence this, excessive external pressures, like a lot of academic stress, can impair cognitive functioning and lead to things like test anxiety. Physical trauma can also play a part in this, like being involved in a car accident with a head injury can lead to memory impairments like amnesia.
Emotional health on the other hand is a more internal concept, the ability to appropriately express your emotions. (McDiriad, 2013) Emotions are usually just things we feel that we often don’t ever think about or try to regulate. We certainly aren’t taught lessons growing up about different emotions and how to manage them, but maybe we should be. Everyone has their own emotional range, which can also be explained by the term emotional granularity. Emotional granularity just refers to how many different emotions an individual can experience and their ability to differentiate among those emotions (Barrett, 2017). For example, someone that always describes themselves as sad in all negative contexts would have low emotional granularity. Someone that can differentiate between when they are “under the weather,” sad and distraught would have a high emotional granularity. The greater understanding of your emotions you have, the easier it is to manage these feelings. It is hard to manage emotions when we do not understand exactly how we are feeling ourselves.
It is often poor mental and emotional health working hand in hand in problems like depression and anxiety, fearful or angry reactions, high levels of stress and excessive worrying (McDiarmid, 2013). This makes sense considering these things are often referenced with emotions in the media, with depression being pictured with sadness and anxiety pictured with fear and worry. However, in the case of disorders, they are more than just extreme emotions, but a product of many internal and external factors. Of the many factors affecting mental wellness, emotions do play a large part and it is highly beneficial to expand one’s range of emotions to help regulate them. So practice self-care today and self-reflect on your own emotions!
Barrett, L. F. (2017). How emotions are made: the secret life of the brain. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
McDiarmid, R. (2013). “Difference between emotional and mental health.” Health