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How to practice emotional first aid - Guy Winch

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We sustain emotional injuries, like failure or rejection, just as often as we do physical ones like cuts and colds. There are science based techniques we can use to treat emotional injuries that can help soothe the distress they cause and prevent them from impacting our short and long-term psychological well-being. Guy Winch makes the case for practicing emotional hygiene— taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies.

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The difference between mental health and emotional health is that mental health is about diagnosable conditions such as anxiety disorders, clinical depression, attention deficit, schizophrenia, and others. Emotional health is about the non-diagnosable stuff – the kind of emotionally distressing experiences we all go through at some point in our lives, such as loneliness, low self-esteem, grief, guilt, rejection, failure, heartbreak and others. By learning how we’re affected by these kinds of emotional wounds and knowing which science-based techniques we could use to treat them we can develop our own personal ‘medicine cabinet’ for emotional wounds.

One of the reasons it is so important to be aware of these kinds of ‘unofficial’ emotional injures is we have a finite amount of emotional and intellectual resources – a limited amount of brainpower – and emotional distress takes up a big chunk of it leaving us left with which to focus, concentrate on our schoolwork or projects or hobbies. For example, in one experiment, participants were asked to image being lonely in the future for a few minutes. That brief thought experiment caused drops in intellectual functioning and even in IQ scores. By applying emotional first aid we can not only soothe emotional pain, we can free up intellectual and emotional resources.

Emotional distress is not the enemy though, it is a part of life and it can provide important information. For example, feelings of guilt can alert us we might need to take action to resolve an issue with a friend or apologize to a relative, thereby helping preserve and maintain our relationships. So emotional distress and negative feelings do have their use as long as we do not get stuck in dark places or paralysis for too long.

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Meet The Creators

  • Speaker Guy Winch