Emotional-awareness to heal our minds
There is nothing worse than getting sucked into the downward spiral of negative emotions. You feel vulnerable, overwhelmed and powerless to stop it.
Like it or not, emotions drive most of our decisions. The danger is when we react to our emotions too quickly and make impulsive decisions that we end up regretting later. It requires a deep sense of emotional-awareness to react without being defensive, upset or anxious. When you are in touch with your emotions, you can simply take the information, process it and move forward in a positive, productive direction.
Here are five steps to develop greater emotional awareness and help you effectively manage your feelings:
1. Acknowledge what you are feeling
Observe your emotions as they arise. Don’t dismiss them.
Psychologist Dr Noam Shpancer explains, “Avoiding a negative emotion buys you short term gain at the price of long term pain. When you avoid the short-term discomfort of a negative emotion, you resemble the person who under stress decides to drink.” He adds, “It ‘works,’ and the next day, when bad feelings come, he drinks again. So far so good, short term. In the long run, however, that person will develop a bigger problem (addiction), in addition to the unresolved issues he had avoided by drinking.”
By simply acknowledging that the emotion exists, you are asserting control. It is only when you develop awareness and acceptance that you can learn where your emotions come from and take your power back.
2. Identify what triggers the negative emotions
When you start to feel anxious, angry or scared, think about what’s around you that’s causing the emotional shift. Is it a person? A place?
Let’s say you recently went through a breakup and feel anxious every time you sign on to Facebook. In this case, you know social media is your trigger, and it’s in your best interest to take a break from it.
Martha Beck, American sociologist, life coach and best-selling author, says, “Once you recall the approximate time your mood went sour, notice what felt most upsetting: a comment from your boss, a story on the news, the number on the scale.” She adds, “Be patient with yourself as you search for the precise trigger. It’s a delicate skill that takes practice.”
3. Confirm that your feelings are accurate and rational
Sadly, many of us have the habit of imagining the worst possible outcome for everything. It reminds me of my favorite Mark Twain quote, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Think about the last time you worried about something, and how that worry snowballed into negative thoughts that were completely irrational. I’m willing to bet the outcome wasn’t as bad as you predicted.
The other day I got a missed call from my daughter Sofia’s school, and my mind immediately went into worry-mode. Is everything okay? Is she hurt? I hope nothing is wrong. As I waited on hold, my heart started to race, and my stress levels went through the roof. When I spoke to her teacher, I was relieved to find out good news. She was calling to let me know Sofia won an art contest.
After I hung up, I was so frustrated with myself. Why did my mind immediately go negative? I worried for nothing.
For me, it helps to write down what emotions I’m experiencing. Oftentimes, seeing it in front of me gives me clarity on the situation. It helps me see when I’m being unreasonable.
4. Get into the habit of practicing mindful meditation
Take a deep breath – literally. Meditation stills the mind from its daily chatter and teaches us how to be in the moment. It allows us to see our lives with our eyes open, in a calm, peaceful way. And when we are in that calm, peaceful state, we interact and communicate with others more authentically. As someone who has been meditating for 15 years, I can feel every day the way it has changed my life and my sense of well-being.
5. Rewire your thoughts
“Our beliefs aren’t always as conscious as we think they are. We may very well accept an idea on the surface, but if deep down, we don’t really believe it’s possible, then our acceptance is just an intellectual process,” according to Dr Joe Dispenza, in his book, You Are The Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter.
At the root of negative emotions are the thoughts that drive them. From the power of your subconscious mind, good and bad habits become ingrained through repeated actions and thoughts. As a result, change can only occur by introducing new ideas, and then strengthening them over time.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years: sometimes it’s good to feel bad. I know it sounds strange, but negative emotions can, in fact, help point out what’s not working in your life. You may also identify something that – if you can change it – will make your life easier and make you happier.