Bolster Your Well-Being With Emotional First Aid

Mental illness is as much worth treating as physical illnesses. As they say, you wouldn’t dismiss a broken leg as being all in your head, so why would you dismiss serious mental health issues? But what if we took that analogy a step further? Most of us won’t even dismiss a stubbed toe or paper cut without a whole lot of fuss, but we dismiss much more significant hits to our emotional well-being.

In this TED talk from 2014, psychologist Guy Winch puts forth an argument that we should be taking quite a bit more care with what most people might consider unimportant types of emotional pain: loneliness, guilt, loss or failure. We all experience them, so a lot of us dismiss them — but over time, that dismissal can do serious damage.

Conversely, paying mindful attention to those same hurts can make our lives better in myriad ways, so long as it’s the right sort of attention. Winch wrote a whole book explaining how to achieve that, but TED helpfully ran down the basics following his talk:

Redirect your gut reaction when you fail.

The nature of psychological wounds makes it easy for one to lead to another. Failure can often drive you to focus on what you can’t do instead of focusing on what you can. That can then make you less likely to perform at your best, which will make you even more focused on your shortcomings, and on the cycle goes. To stop this sort of emotional spiral, learn to ignore the post-failure “gut” reaction of feeling helpless and demoralized, and make a list of factors that you can control were you to try again. For instance, think about preparation and planning, and how you might improve each of them. This kind of exercise will reduce feelings of helplessness and improve your chances of future success.

There are six more tips where that came from, so go check them out.

Winch’s ideas aren’t revolutionary, in 2014 or now — he uses concepts of mindfulness, practices from cognitive behavioral therapy, and other well-established methods. With them, he beautifully illustrates one important point: taking care of our minds doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing prospect. Talking to a professional can help you get a better grasp of healthy thought patterns and reframing techniques — but if you’re not ready, or you’re not in a place where that’s viable, working on those small, common emotional wounds is a great place to start, too.