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So you want to be happy, you say?
6 Critical Components of Emotional Health
This week we’re deconstructing an often-ignored but critically important topic:
A long life without strong emotional health is Hell on Earth.
Who wants to live a long but miserable life?
Let’s dig into the 6 critical components of emotional health and 3 tools to improve your emotional health.
6 Critical Components of Emotional Health
Component #1: Connectivity with others
Healthy relationships and attachments with other people will create the most joyous and memorable moments of our lives.
Real friends, a loving partner, and communities to which you feel strongly tied all contribute to a happy, healthy, and long life.
Component #2: Having a sense of purpose
Purpose seeking has become a multi-million-dollar industry in the form of courses, seminars, and self-help books.
Rather than telling you that there is some magical way to unlock your true purpose (there’s not), I’ll leave you with the most insightful guidance I’ve ever received on the topic.
The following is an excerpt from Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl in his bestselling book Man’s Search for Meaning.
Just replace “success” or “happiness” with “purpose.” The same advice applies.
“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it.
For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.
Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.
I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge.
Then you will live to see that in the long run – in the long run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think of it.”
If you want more on this philosophy, The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life by Boyd Varty is short, easy, and fun to read, and provides a simple yet practical way to approach life.
It’s probably my favourite book ever.
Component #3: Being able to regulate your emotions
The opposite of being able to regulate your emotions is neuroticism.
Neurotic people tend to experience negative feelings such as anger, anxiety, irritability, self‐consciousness, emotional instability, and depression.
Although your ability to control your emotions is partly genetic, it can be improved through meditation and by studying practical life philosophy, the most useful of which, in my experience, is Stoicism.
More on both below.
Component #4: Experiencing fulfillment
Fulfillment comes from work, relationships, volunteering, donating, learning, passion projects, raising good kids, travel, and fitness challenges.
It stems from adding good into the world or overcoming discomfort and challenge.
Fulfillment does not come from using spare time to watch TV or scroll Instagram.
Quite the opposite.
It comes from seizing each day with vigor, passion, and a drive to make the most of your time here – whatever that means to you.
It comes from making a daily routine that utilizes every hour.
A routine that prioritizes what is important to you and blocks out that which is nonessential, unenjoyable, and unimportant.
Component #5: Experiencing satisfaction
What is enough?
Can you define what you want and what is enough in your finances, relationships, and health?
We live in a society that praises endless accumulation. There is never enough!
For what do you need more? Why are you still accumulating? It doesn’t matter! More is better!
My great-grandma used to say, “Enough is as good as a feast.”
Although she was referring to a meal, her wisdom stretches out to the bigger things in life.
Define your goals so you can decide when you have reached them.
You can be fit enough.
You can have enough money.
You can have enough in your current relationships.
It’s the best podcast I’ve listened to this year.
Component #6: Being present
The ability to be present is the ultimate skill.
If you can be present more throughout your days, the 5 components above will fall into place.
You will perform better at work.
You will enjoy your workouts more.
Your relationships will flourish as you create memorable and joyful moments with your loved ones.
Being more present throughout your day starts with a morning meditation practice.
Meditation enables a Matrix-style ability to slow down time and notice the gap between stimuli and action.
That gap is invisible to most which is evident in regretful decisions made, disagreeable emails sent, and relationship battles picked.
The ability to be present and pause in that gap before acting is where the magic happens.
3 Practical Tools to Improve Your Emotional Health
Tool #1: Stoicism
There are countless volumes of Stoic philosophy to read.
For brevity and digestibility, I have two recommendations:
Tim Ferriss and his team compiled 3 volumes of Stoic philosophy based on the writings of the Ancient Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca.
Each PDF contains hundreds of pages of short, easy-to-read letters that you can skim through as you please.
For each day of the year, The Daily Stoic offers a quote or excerpt written by a Stoic philosopher followed by a commentary written by Ryan Holiday.
My brother, close friends, and I are all big fans.
I found that taking 2 minutes every morning to read a page from this book was the easiest way to download the practical operating system of Stoicism into my brain.
Tool #2: Meditation
The benefits of meditation have been beaten into anyone who pays even a whisper of attention to the health and wellness space.
My own meditation practice ebbs and flows throughout the year. I’m far from perfect.
I happen to be traveling right now and am not meditating.
But when I do meditate, my days are better.
My physical and cognitive performance improves and I’m more aware, present, and kind.
Meditation has been complicated far beyond what it needs to be so that it can be packaged and sold in apps, books, videos, and courses.
Just keep it simple.
Sit down for 5-10 minutes. Notice, without judgment, what thoughts or sensations arise.
If your mind wanders, simply come back to the present moment once you notice.
If you prefer guided meditation, Insight Timer has the largest library of free meditations.
Tool #3: Join a Community
Choose one of your interests or start something new and join a community of people to do it with.
Martial arts, swimming, music, dancing, pottery, tennis, pickle ball, curling, flag football, sailing, hockey, bowling, or book club.
Anything. It doesn’t matter.
Joining a community is near guaranteed to improve the quality of your life.
Don’t think about it, just go do it. You can always quit but you won’t want to after meeting a few like-minded people.
Do you like who you see in the mirror?
At the end of the day, you have to be able to look into the mirror and be happy with the person you see.
One thing I’m trying to be cautious of is anchoring too much of my self-worth to any one component of my being.
For example, I can be vain at times and care too much about how my arms look or what my body fat is.
While there’s no harm in wanting to look and feel fit, there is harm in caring too much about any one aspect of your identity.
Because once that is taken away from you, it will leave a massive gap in your self-identity.
And if we live to the ripe old age we aspire to, we will die with weathered wrinkly skin, substantially less muscle mass, and slower cognition than we have today.
In other words, if we live long enough then the things we pride ourselves on will be taken from us or significantly diminished in the future.
To prevent myself from crashing and burning downline, I’m trying to remind myself of this and not anchor my identity too tightly to any one pillar of my being.
That’s all for this week.
Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!