VP Client Blog

Emotional Agility: Navigating Life’s Ups and Downs with Grace

At Virgin Pulse, the Live Services team has long recognized that emotional health is inextricably related to physical health. Our whole-person approach that our team specializes in is more relevant than ever as the Delta variant of COVID-19 pushes the pandemic to new heights, and the corresponding mental health crisis grows ever more imminent. Unsurprisingly, emotional wellbeing strategies have always been an integral concept of our whole-person approach and an enduring theme in our conversations with members.


In a recent blog post, we dove into the concept of emotional granularity, or the ability to identify and articulate the exact emotion one is experiencing as a means to honor it and move through it. To build off that, another emotional wellbeing tool that is essential to flourishing at work and in life is emotional agility. Emotional agility is a term that was coined by Dr. Susan David, a Harvard Medical School psychologist, and a member of the Virgin Pulse Science Advisory Board.


When individuals are emotionally agile, they can fully experience thoughts and emotions in a way that facilitates growth and development instead of fueling negativity. While it’s normal to have negative thoughts and feelings, the challenge for many is how to prevent yourself from giving those negative thoughts and feeling too much attention. However, this doesn’t mean we should ignore our inner experience – this could backfire. Instead, when individuals practice emotional agility, they can mindfully explore their thoughts and feelings and respond in a way that reflects their values. A Harvard Business Review article on emotional agility provided vignettes of this framework from a work perspective and is worth a read. Of note, the authors highlighted several positive benefits of emotional agility, including a reduction in stress and errors, an increase in innovative thinking, and improved job performance. Not bad at all! 😊 



So what does emotional agility entail? Dr. David shares four main concepts of the theory, which have been adapted from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) principles:


  1. Showing Up: Showing up involves noticing the pattern of thoughts and emotions that come up in various situations and taking an objective and neutral view of those thoughts and emotions. It is important to not force positive thinking or place any judgments. Simply be aware of the emotions and thoughts as they arise.
  2. Stepping Out: The next step of emotional agility involves observing thoughts and emotions. Stepping out is about recognizing that our thoughts and emotions are not our identities. They are merely experiences we are having at the moment. Having this knowledge frees us to make decisions about how we react, instead of feeling controlled by strong emotions and urges.
  3. Walking Your Why: Identifying our values is a key component toward mastering emotional agility, and ultimately leads us toward growth. If we know what we stand for and why our path forward becomes a lot clearer.
  4. Moving On: The final step involves putting our values into action. Small lifestyle tweaks, intentional decision-making, and a sharpened mindset pave the path toward successfully living in alignment with our values.

Lastly, fully experiencing our emotions can feel a lot like surfing on waves in the ocean: there are highs and lows and a whole lot in between. At Virgin Pulse, we understand that navigating the range of emotions that comes with being human can feel overwhelming at times. Getting connected with a VP Coach or Guide can make managing day-to-day stressors much easier. We have a deep bench of experienced and compassionate coaches and guides with expertise in emotional health. Through goal setting and accountability, we can work with your employees on resiliency skills, like emotional agility. Our number one priority is to support our members' health and wellbeing, so everyone can feel healthy and whole. We welcome and look forward to the opportunity to partner with more individuals on this journey of emotional growth and Change More Lives for Good.

To learn how you can get started with Live Services, please reach out to your Client Success team. 


Learn more about VP Live

VP Live Coaching features a whole-person approach that blends lifestyle optimization with specialization in an industry-leading 22 conditions, providing total population health management that helps the healthy stay healthy, improves clinical outcomes, and reduces costs associated with chronic conditions. Members access coaching resources directly through their app and once paired with a coach, they identify their goals for a thriving life and work together to progress toward their vision and achieve their targeted outcomes. To learn more about VP Live, reach out to your Client Success team.

Also part of the VP Live product suite, Next-Steps Consult helps members get the most out of their wellbeing program. It is a concierge-style conversation between member and Health Guide, focused on determining a member’s first or next step in their wellbeing journey and personalized guidance of all that Virgin Pulse and employer benefits have to offer. Our Health Guides uncover the best route for a member based on their health status, motivators, and obstacles, with deep knowledge of client programs and resources.  


About the Author

Molly Birkeland

Molly Birkeland, MA, NBC-HWC | Molly is a National-Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach with a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a psychology adjunct faculty, a trained yoga teacher, and has a certificate in functional nutrition. Passionate about holistic health and well-being, her coaching specialties include stress, energy, resilience, time management, sleep, purpose, and nutrition. Molly loves coaching because it is an opportunity to lift people up to their potential and help them experience a new level of happiness in their lives.

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