Bringing Mindfulness to your Emotions
Over the past few weeks I have been focusing on bringing more mindfulness awareness to my emotions as they arise throughout the day and also witnessing the magical effect it’s having on my 12 year old daughter.
What are emotions?
Some examples of emotions can be: fear, sadness, disgust, joy, anger, worry, anxiety, surprise and resentment; all activated by an internal or external event which in turn can rapidly provoke your behaviour to achieve an objective, such as running away from danger, or shouting out in anger. These emotions affect internal and external bodily functions like facial expressions, body posture, increased heart rate, heaviness in the heart and gut.
Emotions are governed by the parts of your brain that evolved a long time ago to help us survive, but also parts of the brain which have evolved in more recent times involving cognitive abilities, leading to worry and rumination (over thinking things). Emotions and feelings have a rich and complex nature also involving the nervous system, such as hormones, attention, thoughts and memories.
Emotion regulation is a natural process. However, you often try to control them by distracting, numbing, avoiding and suppressing them.
How does mindfulness help your emotions?
- Being in the present moment avoids worry and rumination.
- Focusing on your breathing grounds and soothes you.
- Grounding avoids you becoming overwhelmed.
- Turning towards our emotional feelings by naming them gives you some distance and space.
- Using soothing skills on yourself reduces intensity and urgency.
Using the practice below will help the mind and body come back into balance and harmony with more ease.
- Stay present with the emotion. Bring it into the present moment. Don’t push it away, don’t judge it, don’t blame it on others.
- Name and label your experience – What am I feeling right now? Then name what you feel. This is anxiety, this is resentment, this is worry etc.
- Feel it – bringing your awareness of the felt sense in your body. Where is it sitting in my body, in my chest, in my tummy? Ask “how is my body telling me I’m anxious/resentful/worried?”
- Soothing – breathe into the discomfort. Offer yourself the same kind words that you might say to a good friend who was struggling. “I care for you, I’m here for you”.
I’ve found this practice invaluable over the few weeks, which for many of us have been a challenging, changing time. I’ve felt some agitation from uncertainty and some anxiety about what the next few months may hold, but being mindful and aware of these emotions has helped me immensely.
Also seeing how it has helped my daughter Sofia has been beautiful too. She’s bounced back from negative emotions far quicker than me using my usual parenting skills of “it will be ok”… “you’ll be fine”…”don’t worry”…”it will pass”. Knowing she’s got this tool always by her side is so empowering for her.
The following quote by Mark Williams, from his book Finding Peace in a Frantic World, sums this technique perfectly.
“Tension, unhappiness or exhaustion aren’t “problems” that can be solved. They are emotions. They reflect states of mind and body. As such, they cannot be solved – only felt. Once you’ve felt them – that is, acknowledged their existence – and let go of the tendency to explain or get rid of them, they are much more likely to vanish naturally, like the mist on a spring morning.”
I hope you find this practice as helpful as Sofia and I have.
Love and light,