Tag: <span>Wellness</span>

Why Emotional Needs Matter

Dear Reader,


“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

-Brene Brown

As a former teacher, I have seen how important, in our culture, is to think our way through things with a heavy emphasis on thoughts and changing mindset.  There is no doubt that our mind is incredible and capable of amazing things.

Meta-cognition (thinking about our thinking) was very important in helping students develop critical thinking skills.  In essence, it helps us formulate decisions, problem solving, planning, and organizing.

Now, as a mental health counselor, I understand how important and essential emotional needs are.  So, let’s begin with one important question:


How do we feel about feelings?

Dr. Julie and John Gottman have found the importance of assessing and considering meta-emotions which is how we feel about feelings.  In some cases, individuals view feelings as helpful, important and valuable and feel very comfortable talking about feelings and even encourage expression.

Yet, for some individuals, feelings are viewed as negative, unhelpful, or unproductive and go through great lengths to avoid or minimize them.

To clarify, there is no right or wrong way to approaching emotions, so long as we are aware of our intention when we experience them.


An important consideration in regard to avoiding emotions is that emotional needs are signals that we need something.

In fact, it is often that the more we avoid them, the more they persist.

It isn’t done intentionally or on purpose.  In many cases, they are often dismissed because emotional awareness can be quite unpleasant.

Our brain, nervous system and body sends us signals in various ways, a change in mood or energy or just unpleasant body sensations.  We may avoid feeling what we feel to protect ourselves from the discomfort.

In my clinical practice I have learned how important is to be aware of both the mind and the heart.  They provide us with glimpses of our internal emotional and cognitive landscape.

Both stories form our internal narrative.   They shape our behaviors, choices, and life.

What are examples of emotional needs?

The following are examples of emotional needs.


  • safe
  • seen
  • heard
  • protected
  • accepted
  • understood
  • supported
  • loved
  • play
  • cared for
  • encouraged
  • forgiven
  • validated
  • respected
  • valued
  • guided

In essence, when met, emotional needs represent worthiness and human dignity.

It means that our existence is honored and that it matters.  

Now, there may be parts of us that recognize and understand the value of emotional needs but may experience barriers either receiving it or even providing it.


Everyone’s narrative about emotional needs is different since it relies heavily on how our caregiver(s) approached our needs while growing up.  This is often referred to attachment style.

Of course, this does not define us.  There is so much more to emotional needs that are not exclusive to our caregivers such as resilience, protective factors and other caring adults.

Now, what can we do to help meet emotional needs, even if we had difficulties in the past or present?

  1. Identify which are your current emotional needs? You may begin by asking yourself:

What do I need in this moment?

                         Pick your top 3 and make those a priority, for example: safety, acceptance, and play

  1. Consider, with whom or under which contexts can those emotional needs be met?

                        This may mean engaging with people or settings more frequently, such as a caring family member or friend, church, school, and so on.

  1. Consider, which emotional needs could you provide yourself?

                         This may mean changing our self-talk, affirming ourselves, practicing appreciation, improving our sleep and self-care.

  1. Reduce exposure to contexts or individuals who inflict or perpetuate dismissing emotional needs.

                          This may mean reducing engagement with those individuals or contexts, for example: a critical friend or judgmental family member, high stress environment

  1. Increase exposure to context or individuals who provide safety, acceptance, engagement and energy.

                           This may mean increasing engagement in hobbies, school functions, and social events.

Basically, there are things we can do that can help nurture needs while some may deplete needs.

I will close with a final consideration; emotional needs do not exist in isolation.  They exist in the presence of others.  Of course, this doesn’t mean we depend on others to make us happy. However, when emotional needs are successfully met, it increases relational satisfaction and overall wellbeing.

My hope for you is to live wholeheartedly.  Life is, after all, sensational.

With warmth and kindness,



A., V. D. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York (New York): Penguin Books.

Level One Theraplay @ Marshack Interaction Method training.  (2019)

Brene Brown Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/brene_brown_553094


Treat Yourself Like a Plant: Four Steps to Well-Being

Humans don’t come with an instruction manual, but there are things that we can all do that have been proven to keep us physically and mentally healthy. 


I do NOT have a green thumb, but I do know the basics of how to keep a plant alive and growing. Therefore, I’d like to explain how to engage in self-care in a way that is easy to remember: treat yourself like a plant.


  1. Get some sunlight.

Just like plants need sunlight, so do we!  It is widely known that Vitamin D comes from milk and some foods, but did you know it also comes from sunlight?

In fact, 15 minutes of sunlight exposure at least 3 times per week can give us enough Vitamin D to make up for what is missing in food.

Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation and helps all types of cells grow!  It makes our bones stronger, lowers blood pressure, and helps us sleep better. (We all know what consequences we suffer if we don’t get a good night’s sleep—grumpiness, grogginess, overeating, bad decision making just to name a few!)

Additionally, according to researchers at BYU, the availability of sunlight has a big impact on our mood.

During seasons where we get less sunlight, humans experience more mood and emotional problems and disorders.

On the other hand, days with plenty of sunshine helped increase positive mood which means the release of “feel good” hormones and chemicals in the body. Just remember to wear your sunscreen!


  1. Drink plenty of water.

According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water.

Skin is 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: at 31%. It only makes sense to drink water if much of our bodies, and most especially the brain, are made of water!

A 2014 study concluded that habitual water drinking facilitates clear thinking and helps with alertness. It also could benefit mood and confidence.

For example, drinking enough water can clear up skin problems, which can give self-confidence and vitality. There is such a thing as drinking too much water though, so be careful and don’t go overboard with it.


  1. Get some fresh air and activity.

Some plants do well indoors, and some plants thrive in the outdoor elements of wind, rain, and snow.

I’d like for you to imagine though that you are a plant that happens to benefit from the fresh air.  Imagine the slight breeze that moves you and gives you chance to interact with other plants.

Studies have shown that spending time outdoors and in nature can induce calm, decrease depression, and stave off anxiety.

There is a treatment called Ecotherapy, where you spend a prescribed amount of time outdoors and in nature to treat depression.

The benefits of being around nature and green plants is also very grounding.

Grounding is a natural way to combat anxiety because it helps us live in the moment.

Since you are out of the house, it may even give you a chance to do some light socializing–waving at neighbors, saying good morning to passersby.

This even light amount of social interaction has great benefits for the brain. It keeps loneliness at bay and can improve overall mood.


  1. Ensure that you are getting proper nutrients and minerals.

Have you ever seen those commercials for plant food or soil?  They show flowers that grow without the MiracleGro and some that do.

The difference is, with the plant food, the flowers grow bigger and are more resilient and the ones that grow without it are still pretty, but puny and weaker.

The same goes for our bodies!  If we ingest junk food or fast food, sure our bodies will survive.

We won’t go hungry and we will live.  But if we eat high quality, nutritious food and take our vitamins, our bodies will not just be surviving and functioning, they will THRIVE.

Also, have you ever noticed how you feel after you eat a large fatty and not-so-nutritious meal? Or what it feels like if you drink too much alcohol?

That is not fun at all. Like a plant, your brain functions best when it gets nutrient rich soil and plant food.

Eating high-quality foods that contain lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress.


So, there you have it.  Four simple strategies to keep your mind and body happy and healthy…like a plant!

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