7 Emotional Wellness Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

7 Emotional Wellness Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some words are so powerful, they echo throughout the ages. Offering up new insights each time we revisit them.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we’re highlighting some of his most timeless thoughts.

And the emotional wellness truths they hold for us all.


Read on for 7 lessons we can learn about emotional wellness from the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

1. Hope is a healing force.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

You might feel defeated and discouraged. Perhaps you’re walking through the most difficult period of your life. Let yourself feel that difficulty and that disappointment. Your emotions are real. But, as you are, remind yourself: This is temporary. This feeling won’t last. And then shift your thoughts to the future. To a time when things will feel easier. Don’t lose hope.

2. Opening up is an important step towards healing.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Maybe you’re afraid of judgment. Or you simply don’t want to be a “burden”. Or maybe you’re just not sure what to say. Whatever it is that’s keeping you from opening up about what you’re going through… don’t let it any longer. Send a text. Call a hotline. Schedule an appointment. You don’t have to carry this alone.

3. Trust the process, even when you’re not sure where it’ll take you.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Therapy. Medication. Self-care. Radical vulnerability. It can feel mysterious, even intimidating, to take a chance on something new. But, once you’ve done your research and enlisted the help of professionals you trust… go ahead and take that leap of faith. See where you land.

4. All progress is worthwhile, even when it feels slow.

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

From embracing a new healthy habit to promoting social justice, there’s now question about it: Working for positive change can be a frustratingly slow process. That can be especially true of emotional wellness, where it’s not always clear what’s “working” until you’ve invested some time into the growth process. Just focus on doing what you can, however you can do it, at whatever pace you can do it. It’s all moving you forward.

5. Letting go of certain beliefs can be a gift to ourselves.

I have decided to stick to love … Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This one is often learned the hard way, isn’t it? Whether it’s rooted in a personal relationship or your entire worldview, don’t waste another minute carrying hatred and resentment around with you everywhere you go. Choose to let it go.

6. Forgiveness is a skill we must continually develop.

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Offering your forgiveness can feel like giving someone an undeserved gift. And that’s hard to do, no doubt! But, when you forgive, you’re not only freeing the other person from their past choices… you’re also opening up your own capacity to love.

7. Real strength lies in facing our challenges, not in living a life free from them.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most dangerous myths of emotional wellness is that it’s somehow “weak” to struggle or ask for help. Nothing could be further from the truth! By standing your ground in the face of fear, shame, loneliness, uncertainty, or self-doubt, you’re exhibiting incredible strength. And by accepting the support you need to meet these challenges, head on, you’re exhibiting healthy humility, self-compassion, and resilience.


Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Mindful Goal-Setting
25 Mindfulness Ideas to Try this Year
Habit Change in 3 Easy(-ish) Steps

Looking for emotional wellness support?