What place do emotions have in a health coach’s blog? Health is about food, exercise, stress management and all of that, right?
Even if you only take these three topics, your emotions, your thoughts and your beliefs are just as important if not more: If you’re eating nutritious food, exercising regularly and doing yoga, but your mind is telling you the whole time that you’re not good enough, thin enough or successful enough, you’ll only go that far. In fact, many studies show that positive emotions not only make you more satisfied with your life, help you have better relationships and live longer, they also improve your physical health.
Psychology has concentrated on negative emotions for so long: depression, anxiety, fear, etc. But just like we should also talk about what foods we should be eating and not only the foods we should be avoiding, we shouldn’t only focus on negative emotions but also strive to cultivate the positive ones. A branch of psychology called positive psychology has thankfully been doing research on this.
What is positive psychology?
Barbara Fredrickson, one of the leaders in the field actually proved that people’s health benefits from feeling positive emotions: their short term memory and concentration improve and they perform better on verbal tests; they are also more open to new information, have better visual attention and verbal creativity. Positive emotions increase our levels of dopamine, stimulate the immune system and lessen the inflammatory response caused by stress.
I recently saw an Instagram post by a doctor saying that the modern physician should know as much about emotions and thoughts as about disease symptoms and drugs. Unfortunately, few doctors accept this, or rather, they don’t have the time to deal with their patient’s emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. That’s where health coaches like myself come in.
Positive emotions and health coaching
In the kind of health coaching that I do, emotions and more specifically positive emotions are an essential part of the conversation. I help my clients develop a sense of meaning and purpose in life, focusing on what’s important to them and feeling more connected.
This isn’t to say that we all leave in happy land and negative emotions aren’t allowed. Life happens to all of us; ignoring negative emotions and blindly or stubbornly looking for the positive in everything will not work. Just like stress, negative emotions are part of the human experience and have their own role to play.
But I would like to ask you this: how often do you prioritise positivity in your life? In my work with clients I often ask question such as “What is important to you? What brings you joy?” You would be surprised as to how many people don’t have an immediate answer to this. But you would also be surprised as to how their health journey shifts once they start finding an answer to these questions.
How can you do more of what brings you joy this week? Do you need to schedule it in? Make some plans? Reach out to someone? Put it in your agenda. Or reach out to me and try to find the answers to these questions together with a coach on your side.