What do we mean by “emotional health”?

Emotional health can be difficult to define because the balance that constitutes emotional health is unique to each individual and varies from one culture to another. In some cultures, talking openly about emotional experiences may be encouraged, while in others it may be frowned upon. Throughout this booklet, we aim to promote a positive, affirming understanding of emotional health and wellness—an important aspect of our health as people living with HIV.

“I’m finally at peace with HIV. It’s doing its thing, I’m doing my thing—we can live together.”

What we mean by emotional health is a balance between the various parts of your life. Your emotional health encompasses your physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and sexual well-being. It can be strengthened through love, friendship, social supports and your sense of “fitting in” in your community.

Your emotional health might include such things as your ability to enjoy life without being consumed by things from your past or stressing about things in the future, your ability to manage stress, maintain an optimistic outlook and “bounce back” from difficulties.

When we are feeling mentally and emotionally healthy, we feel more able to juggle the different aspects of our life and make changes when necessary to restore balance among them. We are better able to recognize our strengths and talents and pursue them in a way that allows us to realize our potential. Being in a good place emotionally makes it easier to feel and express our full range of emotions. And we feel better equipped to tackle life’s problems.

In the same way that physical fitness can help us recover from an illness or surgery, “emotional fitness” can make it easier for us to regain our emotional balance and our ability to enjoy life again after a difficult period.