Whether you’re striving to ‘do more sports’ or just walking to work to keep up with the bombardment of “healthy” lifestyle standards, we all often forget to take a break and consider our emotional health; it is one of—if not the—most important factor in looking after ourselves.

As a younger studying psychologist, I had always wondered why sports athletes go through depression and it wasn’t long before it was abundantly clear, that collegiate activities were increasingly sophisticated in their push for that physical ‘edge’ of professional athletes with refined training regimes, early specialisation disregarding the young athlete’s choice and celebrity-level diets, it drowned out the most important aspect…

What do they think of it?

Little has been done to push the psychological support when compared to physical improvements and while most of us have been taught to not engage and respond to those subtle signals of emotional turmoil we are bound to experience throughout our lives, not addressing the issue leads to deterioration of our quality of life as well as physical health.

There is the data to support that claim. In the United States, nearly 18% of the population, or 1 in 5 Americans, experiences an emotional health issue. Over their lifetime, around 48% of the population in the country will have had several such encounters – some of which more severe than others. Plus, this seems to start at the youngest age with 20% of children experiencing some debilitating emotional disorder.

Today we take a look at the practices that would help you build resilience, stay in touch with your emotions and understand the chemical processes in your head that put you in a certain frame of mind.

Build Self-Worth, Boost Your Self-Esteem
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1. Build Self-Worth, Boost Your Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is an important ingredient for our emotional life. It’s the mental resilience we build to deal with otherwise crippling life situations, such as rejection, stress, and failure. Even anxiety can be credited to low self-esteem where the person experiencing those severe episodes of worry cannot find a reason as to why they would be able to undertake and carry out a task to completion.

Building our self-esteem – in a manner that gives us sound foundations – is the way to go. In the United States, 18.1% of the population, or some 42 million people live with anxiety disorder – whether it is chronic or recurrent, and that calls for more awareness on how to improve our mental health.

Many people in pursuit of self-esteem would seek validation and build dependency on others which is a way to give an individual enough strength to stand on their own two feet, but it’s hardly a successful long-term strategy.

Instead, you should try to practice something as simple as self-compassion and building the fortitude to last through some of life’s unavoidable disappointments.

Don't Give in to Bad Thoughts
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2. Don’t Give in to Bad Thoughts

Overthinking and indulging in brooding thoughts is how most people spiral further down in their distress. While some may consider that not having brooding thoughts is a sign of lower intelligence, the plain truth is that most people would rather have it simple.

Dwelling too much on a destructive thought is going to be your one-way ticket to a vicious circle where you are locked and become a slave to notions that aren’t necessarily true or just undermine your self-worth.

After developing a habit out of this negative thought pattern, you will soon begin to manifest physical and verbal signs of those thoughts – whether it is to put yourself down with a mean comment – or generally exhibit other distress. There are statistical numbers that highlight the steep cost we all pay for not boosting awareness.

In the United States, the estimated cost of emotional and mental illness is $193.2 billion. These economic morose translates in many ways – some people need direct financial help – whereas others cannot achieve peak performance and be fully-functional individuals. Worldwide, depression is listed as the leading cause of disability.

Deal with Rejection and Failure
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3. Deal with Rejection and Failure

Many of us need validation to feel well on day-to-day basis. A compliment, some form of recognition, an award – these all serve to a single end – boosting your emotional health and giving you the momentary leg-up that translate into positive emotions and allows you to take life in strides.

Yet, there are moments in life when the opposite emotions will surface. Rejection and failure are debilitating feelings that paralyze most people – the younger you are the more fearful you would be upon failing a task. Or to put this way, lack of experience, could be intimidating when met with failure.

In time, though, you build the confidence to glide over such situations – until that time, they may be the source of fear and low self-esteem. You need to remind yourself that this is not indicative of your self-worth. Yet, your brain might have a tougher time understanding that, because to the cerebrum, rejection and physical pain are one and the same thing, a study published by the University of Michigan has established.

Sugar Consumption and the Risk of Depression
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4. Sugar Consumption and the Risk of Depression

Emotional eating is an all-too-familiar ally of a person who is prone to depressive episodes. That immediate gratification we get from consuming something tasty may be transient, but it serves its purpose.

Of course, there are no long-term effects. A new study now suggests that increased sugar intake could lead to higher risk of depression, intensifying the symptoms of  emotional distress. Based on the findings Martin J. Shipley from the University College London and his colleagues, the increased consumption of processed sugar increases the odds of having an incident related to the individual’s mental health by 23%.

These finds may be restricted to certain populations, the authors caution. This doesn’t sound too off the point, however, as it has been proven that certain races are more prone to specific diseases. In the case of emotional health, the prevalence of illness varies based on race.

So, the number of white adults living with such a condition is 19.3% in the United States while Hispanic adults who experience mental or emotional illness are 16.3%. Asian adults seem to be the most resilient with only 13.9% of the Americans of Asian origin reporting emotional distress on regular basis.

While no definitive proof has been furnished, dietary habits specific to a culture could have their say in what a person’s emotional health is like.

Good Exercise to Boost Mental Health
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5. Good Exercise to Boost Mental Health

Exercise can be good for tackling mental health – but don’t think about it in extreme terms. Based on the federal physical activity guidelines, 75 minutes of any aerobic activity would be enough for you to get your weekly dosage of healthy exercise. If you are less prone to vigorous activities, then even 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity will be enough for you to get what you need to boost your mental fortitude. The upshot? People who do exercise report only 1.5 bad mental health days a month as opposed to 3.75 as the average for non-exercising people.