20 Characteristics of Emotionally Healthy People
Do you see yourself as a mentally healthy person?
That's one of those complex questions that usually has people either giving a super quick answer of "Yes!", because the alternative would be "No" which simply isn't an option, or you get a weak and trailing off "I'm not sure . . .", because the question is rather complex and requires some thought. It does require some thought actually, because what most of us think of as mental health is really something more along the lines of "emotional health." Here's why.
Emotions, or emotional development, form the foundation for our ability to have relationships, to learn, to get things done, to work and hold jobs, and actually, to think and analyze. Emotions supply the energy, interest, attention, memory, and will to act.
The more emotionally developed we are, the more mentally healthy we are.
You can have an IQ of 180 and not be able to use it productively if you are underdeveloped emotionally.
Emotional development, or emotional health, comes first.
Emotional intelligence has become a mainstream concept and area of study that was introduced by Daniel Goleman in his landmark book, Emotional Intelligence (1995). The ideas were expanded and applied later in the book by Travis Bradberry, Jean Greaves, and Tom Parks entitled Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (2009).
As these works point out, the whole idea of mental health has expanded to include and emphasize emotional health as a prerequisite to using our thinking capacity to its fullest, and to lead happy, productive, rich lives.
My List of Characteristics
Expanding on this idea, I have come up with 20 characteristics that I believe are most reflective of emotional health based on my work with people over the years, as well as my own experience.
When you read it, see it as something to strive for rather than as a commentary on what's wrong with you. It is rare that anyone has all of these characteristics all of the time.
It is a guide, so feel good about the characteristics you have, and use the rest of the list as a spark to make improvements in areas where you would like to grow.
Here they are!
1. Emotionally healthy people are connected.
They recognize and believe that everything and everyone is connected. As a result, they engage in actions that preserve and benefit all of us. They understand that hurting someone is no different than hurting themselves.
2. They have a conscience.
They do the right thing even when no one is looking. They feel guilty and remorseful if they do something that is hurtful, dishonest, or unethical. They understand that the means are always as important as the end. They care, and their actions reflect that.
3. They can be quiet.
They can spend time in solitude and quiet, and enjoy it. They recognize the need to recharge, to contemplate, and to be in tune with themselves.
4. Their self-talk is affirming.
They value themselves, without being narcissistic. They recognize their talents, contributions, and worth. They are kind to themselves, and avoid masochism of any kind.
5. They are self-disciplined.
They are able to create goals and sustain the actions necessary to meet them. They have rules of conduct that they uphold, and they follow through on what they promise.
6. They are self-aware.
They spend time in contemplative inner examination. They have insight into themselves, and delve into their real feelings, motives, patterns, values and beliefs. They understand that ignorance is not bliss, and they engage in self-examination regularly.
7. They have strong values.
They have defined values that they live by. Their values most often include respect for others, honesty, keeping their word, kindness, a strong work ethic, non-harm, an abhorrence of cheating or swindling, and fairness.
8. They are flexible.
They can change directions when the situation calls for it. They are able to deal with unforeseen circumstances, meet challenges that appear, assess and reassess as they go, and pivot when necessary.
9. They have a big picture view.
They operate with whole pictures meaning they understand the interrelatedness of things. Any action creates a cascade of reactions that have consequences and that create more reactions. They consider the long-term consequences of choices based on a whole and complete picture of reality in any given moment.
10. They are able to love.
They can truly care and attach to another human being. They are able to consider the best interests of others in relationships, and act to support and encourage those they love. They are not competitive, violent, selfish, or deceitful in relationships.
11. They can set boundaries.
Just as emotionally healthy people can love and stretch themselves to give to those they love, they are equally able to place boundaries on people and situations that are abusive, harmful, or toxic. They value themselves and know when to draw the line on unwanted or toxic behavior.
12. They use language to truly communicate.
Language is used to directly express thoughts and feelings so that others can understand clearly who they are, what their intent is, how they perceive things, and what they mean. They do not use language to manipulate or deceive, but rather to truly communicate and foster understanding.
13. They take care of their bodies.
They have respect for their bodies, and express this through good diet and regular exercise. They understand that a healthy body supports their capacity to live optimally, succeed, engage in creative thinking, and age well. They understand the correlation between food, exercise, and mood stability.
14. They are responsible.
They feel 100% responsible for their lives, their choices, and their own success in all areas. They don't blame others, their history, or their circumstances for failure, but rather take action to create the circumstances and situations they desire. They live up to their obligations to the best of their ability.
15. They have a work ethic.
They expect to work, embrace it, and make the most of it. They do not expect others to take care of them.
16. They have purpose and meaning.
Research has shown that people who live with purpose live longer. Emotionally healthy people seek and know their purpose and pursue it. They seek meaning in life and look beyond the day-to-day experiences to dig deeper into the why of their existence.
17. They are proactive rather than reactive.
They strive to take action to facilitate the tasks required of them, as well as to pursue their goals. They look ahead rather than wait for things to happen that leave them reeling with little to no control. They seek progress, and proactively complete the actions to make it so.
18. They can delay gratification and control their impulses.
Emotionally healthy people have a good balance between their emotions and their thinking. They use their brains and cognition to help them make sound decisions. They have what's called "executive function" meaning they can stand back and look at a situation objectively before taking action. They can work toward a goal over time, and can control their emotions in the process to make steady progress.
19. They can plan, organize and prioritize.
They know how to pluck out the most important aspects of living, and pursue those. They can make a plan, organize the steps to facilitate it, and prioritize the order of execution. They have a handle on the different areas of their lives, and the activities involved in each of them.
20. They are resilient.
Most important, emotionally healthy people are resilient and can bounce back from loss or failure. They feel deeply, but can process their emotions and make the best of situations as they come, often finding the silver lining. They learn from mistakes, and then move on.
What have I missed?
Anything else you want to add to this list? Please do! It will be helpful to all of us, and I would like to know what you think!