The intimate connection between body, mind and spirit has been known and honored in Eastern medicine for millennia. But only relatively recently have we begun to see that emotional health is directly connected to physical heath. Now we know: Neglect your emotional and spiritual health, and sooner or later it will take a toll on your physical body.

Thousands of studies (demanded by the Western cultural paradigm) have proven the mind-body connection. The human body is no longer seen as a machine whose breakdowns are random events. Depression is a risk factor for heart attack (and vice versa); anxiety can provoke digestive and skin disorders; self-centeredness may increase your risk of stroke or heart disease.

Your emotional health also shapes your ability to succeed "out there." According to researcher Daniel Goleman, author of the groundbreaking book "Emotional Intelligence," your "EQ" is a more accurate predictor of your ability to "succeed" in life than your IQ, a phenomenon he refers to as "emotional literacy."

Detoxify your body of toxic emotions

Beyond physical vitality and personal security, there is an even deeper imperative calling us to pay attention to our emotional health: ultimately, the deepest satisfaction — or greatest misery — comes from our ability to live authentically, deeply and intimately with others. If we neglect our emotional development, we run the risk of isolation as we grind ourselves ever more deeply into cyclic patterns of blame/guilt, hostility/shame, anger/self-hate and other toxic emotions. As a wise friend of mine once remarked, "It is difficult to walk through doorways with a chip on one's shoulder."

Four Myths About Emotional Health

  • "We're only supposed to feel good."
  • "I'm the only one who feels this way."
  • "Most people don't have problems."
  • "I can work through it on my own."

"We take life very seriously, and get hung up in our dramas," notes Patricia Clason, founder of the Center for Creative Living and a personal-development workshop leader for the last 17 years. Her weekend course, "Taking It Lightly," helps people identify their "unfinished emotional work," and move through it to a place in which natural joy and lightness of being can re-emerge.

What You Can Learn from War Veterans

For war veterans in particular, emotions of guilt, shame, grief and inadequacy come up as "old wounds," observes Christan Kramer, director of the Bamboo Bridge, a weekend emotional-healing workshop for Vietnam and other war veterans.

Most participants show up carrying their baggage of skepticism and cynicism, wrapped around the belief that our country has discounted the value of the service they gave and, in some cases, reviled them upon their return. In the workshop, they are able to purge a great deal of the pain and emotional distress they've been carrying, reports Kramer.