THE THREE KEYS TO ACHIEVING PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING
Dr. Carin Friedman
I am not afraid of storms, for I have learned how to sail my ship
-Louisa May Alcott
In these current times of an over-abundance of self-help books, articles, and programs, we often hear phrases such as “well-being” and “inner peace”. However, many of us do not understand what this means or how to achieve it. What does it mean to be emotionally or psychologically healthy? And, perhaps more importantly, how does one get there?
Achieving a consistent state of emotional wellness is a process that often involves some work. Basically, psychological well-being is the ability to cope well with life’s challenges, the ability to be fully present in the moment, and the ability to achieve a steady sense of inner peace, contentment, and/or fulfillment. Here are three key components to achieving this level of well-being that are integral to this most important and worthwhile journey:
#1: UNDERSTAND AND OWN YOUR PERSONAL POWER
Personal power is the innate ability of all human beings to choose their thoughts and their actions. Many people do not recognize or comprehend this universal, inborn potential. By understanding that we have the capacity to create and influence our lives through our thoughts and our behaviors, we can begin to gain a sense of control and proactively create more satisfying life experiences. In other words, we can choose to become powerful creators of our lives rather than reactive or powerless victims.
How does one begin to own his or her personal power? First, you must understand that wellness IS possible and then make a conscious decision to be emotionally and physically well. Then, become conscious of your thinking patterns and start to choose thoughts that are positive about yourself and your life. Then, choose actions that support your more positive focus. Try your best to practice gratitude and appreciation by focusing on the more positive aspects of your life rather than complaining about what you may perceive as lacking. Instead of simply existing day to day, live your life as fully as you can. Be present in the moment-to-moment experiences of your life.
#2: LET GO OF EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE
Most of us have experienced at least some emotional pain during our lifetimes, such as loss, trauma, abuse, or unhealthy relationships. The question here is: Is this emotional pain still affecting me negatively in my present life experience? Emotional pain that is still afflicting us can take on many forms, such as feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, regret, anxiety, fear… or sometimes it comes in other forms, like depression, panic attacks, addictions, recurrent flashbacks or nightmares, sleep issues, relationship issues, and so on. Unresolved emotional pain over time can result in significant emotional, psychological, and physical problems if not addressed.
If you have some emotional pain that is still haunting you or weighing you down, you can choose to work on letting it go. First, take a look within and acknowledge the painful event(s) and/or negative emotion(s). Then, make a decision to let it go by changing your thoughts about it and/or practicing forgiveness. In addition, try an activity that will help you in letting go of the negative emotion that is weighing you down, such as meditation, listening to a guided imagery or self-help CD, or writing a letter/journaling. Oftentimes, a decision to seek the help of a professional psychotherapist or counselor can be of great assistance in this journey. In any case, the act of freeing yourself of emotional baggage is an extremely healthy one that will lead to a more peaceful and satisfying life.
#3: ACHIEVE A POSITIVE SELF-CONCEPT
We all have a self-concept – that is, how we think and feel about ourselves. This can be conscious or unconscious. Our self-concept forms the lens by which we perceive our worlds and experience our lives. It colors not only how we see ourselves, but also how we perceive others, our beliefs, and how we experience our relationships. If our self-concept is negative, such as believing we are unworthy, undeserving, unlovable, and so on…then our life experiences will be generally unsatisfying. Conversely, if our self-concept is positive, then our life experiences and relationships will be positive and fulfilling.
The first task here is to recognize any negative self-concept. Then, the next step is to understand that any unhealthy thoughts and feelings were probably internalized early on in childhood and are actually false beliefs about the self. Then, work towards developing a more positive self-concept. Replace these false self-beliefs with more accurate self-beliefs that reflect self-acceptance. The ultimate self-concept is one that is a sense of total, unconditional self-love. This can be achieved in several ways, such reading self-help books, using positive or self-love affirmations, practicing positive visualizations, or participating in individual or group psychotherapy.
In any case, taking the journey toward psychological well-being is one well worth the trip.