emotional health vs happiness

My personal indication of having read a good book is if in the days/weeks following I can’t stop thinking about something I read in that book. It’s usually something that’s a revelation to me.

One such book is How to Develop Emotional Health by Oliver James.

I’ve read a lot of books on happiness but I’ve always felt after reading these books that unless I’m happy all the time, a happy person, I’ve failed what that book wants me to be.

The refreshing thing about How to Develop Emotional Health was James’s focus on Emotional Health over Happiness:

Nor should emotional health be conflated with idea like ‘life satisfaction’ or ‘well-being’, not with happiness. The later is usually a fleeting state, the feeling of pleasure you gain from sex or a cigarette, or the satisfaction on hearing of a successful exam result. Beware of authors bearing gifts of happiness. It is psychological snake oil. In this authors opinion, we were not put on earth to be happy, but it is plausible that we can be more emotionally healthy.

The other aspect to the book that made me think a lot was the difference between emotional health and mental health. Mental health is typically defined by the absence of mental illness, whereas the author defines emotional health as a collection of positive elements that can work together to create an emotionally healthy person; these being insightfulness, living in the present, fluid two-way relationships, authenticity, and playfulness and vivacity.

None of us emotionally healthy at all times, in all these ways. Most of us achieve only in some aspects outlined above, and only some of the time.

The book is well worth a read.

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