Emotional wellbeing

Emotional wellbeing is the ability to,recognise and look after our emotional needs as well as understand and appreciate the value (our emotional resilience) of our emotions and use them to move our lives forward in a positive direction.

Emotional wellbeing can also be described as a positive sense of wellbeing, which enables us to function in our communities well and meet the demands of everyday life.


You may have heard of the term ‘glass half full’ to define people with a positive outlook on life – their positive mindset. Those with a positive mindset tend to be more successful, lead healthier lives, have a joyful outlook on life and have reduced rates of serious illnesses associated with poor mental health than those with a ‘glass half empty’ mindset.

Learned optimism is a concept that suggests we can change our attitude and behaviours by recognising and challenging our negative self-talk, among other things.

By contrast, learned helplessness can be described as a phenomenon whereby individuals believe they are incapable of changing their circumstances after repeatedly experiencing stressful events.

Practice positive self-talk

Positive self-talk is important for a number of reasons. Positive self-talk can make a world of difference, it can help:

  • reduce stress
  • boost confidence and resilience
  • build better relationships
  • overcome body dysmorphia
  • improve sports performance
  • mediate anxiety and depression
  • lead to more effective learning.

Positive self-talk isn’t about knowing all the answers or thinking you’re amazing, it’s simply about:

  • re-framing how you view things – looking at things with a different lens
  • removing that tricky negative bias
  • approaching life with the idea that you can tackle things.

Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, don’t worry! Just remember, you can learn from it for next time to avoid repeating.

10 examples of positive self-talk statements and phrases

I have the power to change my mind.

Attempting to do this took immense strength and courage and I am super proud of myself for trying!

Even though it wasn’t the outcome I wanted, I learned a lot about myself.

Even though I still have a way to go, I am proud of how far I have already come.

I am capable, strong and resilient, I can get through this.

Tomorrow is a chance to try again, with the lessons learned from today.

I will give it my all to make this work with the gifts that I have

I can’t control what other people think, say or do. I can only control me.

This is an opportunity for me to try something new – woo hoo!

I can learn from this situation and as a result, continue to grow as a person.

Strategies to support you with practicing self-talk

Some situations may cause us to indulge in more negative self-talk than others. For example, an introvert might find negative self-talk crops up when they have to attend social events or networking. Identifying these triggers and traps can help you put in more preparation to address and switch your negative self-talk to positive self-talk.

Positive affirmations are a great way to switch up our self-talk chatter. Before a situation even arises that might give negative self-talk its voice, practice saying positive affirmations in the mirror to encourage your positive approach to yourself.

These are excellent reminders to adopt a more positive approach. Little notes, posters or post-it notes around the house with positive expressions can make a huge difference to your daily mindset – you could start with ‘I can achieve and learn a lot today’ on a post-it note next to your computer.

Switching to positive self-talk takes effort. It’s very easy to become attuned to negative self-talk that it might only take one or two minor setbacks to cause you to revert back to the negative. When challenges do arise, make sure you check in with how you’re feeling and that your self-talk hasn’t become negative. Bring it back with some positive phrases. At the end of each day, write down three positive phrases that you can look at tomorrow.

Sometimes there are people in our lives who don’t bring out the best in us. Identifying self-talk triggers and traps might also mean identifying a person (or two) who encourages you to think negatively about yourself. It’s okay to create boundaries and remove these people – you need to look after you first and foremost. Focus on surrounding yourself with people who talk positively about you and encourage you to do the same.

Given that happiness means different things to different people, it can be challenging to define what it actually is and what it means for our wellbeing. Think about what happiness means to you, not those around you.

Getting to know our triggers

Ever wonder why some people respond in the same destructive way over and over, even though they keep getting the same bad results?

Many of us can relate to having unhealthy coping mechanisms and responses to things like stress, fear or other agitating emotional states. Often we are unaware of the subconscious processes going on and we may, for example, instinctively reach for an alcoholic beverage at the end of a long, hard day, never realising we are setting ourselves up for an addictive pattern that may one day claim our health.

Self-destructive behaviours/habits are learned responses to environmental and emotional triggers. You can un-learn these responses and create new ones by building a healthier way of engaging with the world, your emotional landscape, and your workplace family and friends.

Habit formation plays a strong role in triggering. People tend to do the same things in the same way. For example, a person who smokes might always smoke while he or she is driving; therefore, driving could trigger an urge to smoke, often without the smoker’s conscious thought.

Because our responses to triggers usually occur at the subconscious level, and we are completely unaware of the firing and wiring we have created, we are doomed to repeat self-destructive behaviours until we identify our triggers.

Once we know our triggers and begin to recognise them when they happen, we can see them for what they are – over-reactions to a perceived threat. Then we can learn to respond in ways that are more life affirming, useful and healthy for us.

There are two different types of reactions to triggers:


We get stuck in negative emotions such as anger, sadness, or anxiety and react in extremely emotional ways—getting defensive, shouting and screaming, withdrawing completely, etc.

For emotional reactions, it helps to clearly communicate feelings. Learning how to understand your emotions, acknowledge them, and then give them a voice.


We crave certain substances (food, sugar, alcohol, etc.) This happens because the emotional pain triggers our habitual way of indulging in some kind of physical activity that we are using to suppress the emotion or dull the pain.

When it comes to physical reactions, it helps to create space by doing something else, for example, taking a walk or even simply taking some deep and conscious breaths.

Instead of unconsciously reacting to a trigger/stimulus, you can learn to consciously respond to them.

Trigger and response exercise

Start by taking a sheet of paper and creating three columns. Title them: Trigger, Current reaction, and New response.

Trigger column

Write each one of your triggers. You can think of these as things that “push your buttons.”

Current reaction column

List how you normally react when this button is pushed.

New response column

Write what you could do as a conscious response instead of your normal knee-jerk reaction.

Trigger: When I feel that my spouse dismisses my comments or feelings about something.

Current reaction: I get angry and shout at them.

New response: I’ll tell them my feelings were hurt.

Trigger: When I feel unheard in a group of negative talk.

Current reaction: I withdraw and say nothing.

New response: I’ll take a breath and chose to share my opinion.

Trigger: When I get overwhelmed and stressed.

Current reaction: I get defensive and push others away.

New response: I’ll ask for help.

Now that you’ve written your list of triggers and changed how you’ll respond, you’ve got to learn to make these responses your habitual way of being.

Keep this list handy and use it as a guide. You can add new ways to manage your triggers as they come to you.

Don’t get discouraged if you falter, as it takes time to learn new ways of being. Just keep practicing them, until over time, they become your new habits. In this way, you are powerful in that you consciously own and choose how you respond to people, situations, and circumstances. You aren’t blindly reacting anymore.

Life is full of triggers, know this. But also know you have the choice and the power to respond to those triggers in ways that are healthy and achieve better outcomes.

Self awareness team exercise

Emotions last minutes; the story lasts longer

In your team, pick someone to lead.

Leader: ask the group:

  • How large of a role does being self-aware really play, and how does it influence our communication? Thoughts?

Ask the team to individually write down a feeling, fold it and then share with the leader.

Leader: shuffle the bits of paper and then hand out to each member of the team.

Leader: ask the team (one at a time) to please act out the feeling you have written down to the rest of the group – using only facial expressions – no hand gestures or sounds. Everyone else in the team then has to guess the emotion.


  • What feelings do we understand the easiest, when only facial expressions are used? Why might that be?
  • Describe some contexts where facial expressions play a particularly important role in communication?
  • In what ways can facial expressions influence our ability to deal with misunderstandings?

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