How To Use Mindfulness To Regulate Your Emotions
Navigating our emotions can be a real challenge, especially when we're faced with intense or unpleasant feelings like anger, sadness, or fear. If you're someone who finds it difficult to control your emotions, then this article is perfect for you. Keep reading to discover how we can free ourselves from emotional baggage and improve our ability to manage our feelings.
What is Emotion Regulation
Emotion regulation is a skill that involves recognizing, managing, and responding to our emotions in a manner that benefits us and our current circumstances. We encounter various emotions every day, so it's crucial to respond to them appropriately instead of allowing them to take over or avoiding them completely. Many individuals attempt to deal with their emotions by suppressing or avoiding them, but these approaches ultimately cause more harm than good (check out an article on this topic). Emotional suppression or avoidance are common unhealthy strategies for regulating emotions that can result in problems such as anxiety, depression, burnout, physical ailments, and sleep difficulties.
On the other hand, if we want to effectively manage our emotions, there are a few things we can try. For instance, we could have a conversation with a close friend or therapist and discuss our feelings openly. Another option is to jot down our emotions and thoughts in a journal, which can provide us with a clearer and more objective view of the situation. Engaging in activities that bring us happiness and joy is also a fantastic way to regulate our emotions. And of course, we shouldn't forget to be kind to ourselves and acknowledge our experiences with self-compassion. All of these strategies are based on our ability to recognize and label our emotions, which is where mindfulness skills play a crucial role.
What is Mindfulness
The skill of mindfulness involves purposefully paying attention to the present moment. It's a nonjudgmental practice that encourages us to observe and notice our experiences with curiosity and compassion, rather than criticizing them.
If you're looking for a way to feel more relaxed and fulfilled, mindfulness might be just what you need as it has several proven benefits. It's been linked to reduced anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as increased happiness and better physical health. Check out this article for some simple ways to start practicing mindfulness in your daily life.
How Mindfulness Can Help Regulate Emotions
There are several ways that mindfulness can help regulate our emotions. Since mindfulness involves being present, it helps take us out of our heads and allows us to be more calm. Taking a few deep breaths to ground yourself in the present moment lowers emotional intensity and gets us out of the fight-or-flight response which is linked to heightened emotional arousal and reactivity.
One of the benefits of mindfulness is that it allows us to create distance between our emotions and our actions. This separation gives us the opportunity to respond more intentionally to any situation, rather than simply reacting impulsively. By mindfully observing what's happening, we can make decisions based on both our emotions and our logic.
As well, mindfulness allows us to take a step back and observe our internal experiences, rather than being consumed by them. This helps us to better tolerate uncomfortable emotions, which can otherwise lead to harmful coping strategies like self-harm, binge eating, or substance abuse. By staying present with our emotions, we learn that they are temporary and cannot hurt us, allowing us to regulate our emotions in a healthier way.
4 Steps to Mindfully Regulate Emotions
If you're looking to improve your emotional regulation, mindfulness is a great place to start. While it may seem straightforward, mastering mindfulness takes time and practice. Here are 4 simple steps to get you started in your mindfulness practice that will help you learn to regulate your emotions better:
Step 1: Notice
Take a deep breath to orient yourself to the present moment. Notice what is happening for you and label the emotion you are experiencing.
Step 2: Observe
Investigate and observe what is happening for you. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? How intense is the emotion? What is your posture like or breathing rate? If any thoughts or judgements arise about the emotions, just notice them, and bring your attention back to the present moment with a breath. This step is simply to explore what is happening for you internally (i.e., thoughts, body sensations, emotions, mental images).
Step 3: Accept
Whatever you are feeling and experiencing is valid. Acknowledge this self-compassionately. No emotions are good or bad; they just are. So instead of trying to push them away or talk yourself out of how you are feeling, lean into the emotion and accept its presence.
Step 4: Respond
Here we want to respond rather than react to whatever situation is stirring up our big emotions. Ask yourself what will be most helpful to you in this situation. Use your emotions as a guide to inform your needs, but use objectiveness to determine your options, coping skills, and possible consequences of your actions. Perhaps you need to get some fresh air, eat something if you’re hangry, or talk to a friend.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes, we all experience intense and troublesome feelings that can cause us to react in ways we later feel sorry for or that aren't typical of us. It's crucial to learn how to manage our emotions in a healthy way. One approach is mindfulness, where we simply observe and acknowledge our emotions without judgment in the present moment. This allows us to recognize and accept our emotions, enabling us to respond to challenging situations in a more constructive manner. If you struggle with regulating your emotions, it might be helpful to seek guidance from a licensed therapist who can offer emotional support and help you develop these skills.
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