None of us enjoy unpleasant or stressful emotions, but guess what, we’re human and we have them. Unfortunately many of us, including myself at times, have a habit of taking or doing any number of things to keep us from feeling them. In fact, there are multi-billion dollar industries around the world whose entire financial success is built on the ways in which we distract ourselves from our emotions.
But here’s the thing… if we cover the uncomfortable emotions with distractions, they don’t really go away they just fester and grow. When this happens, they WILL manifest either as chronic stress and/or disease in the body such as obesity, heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc.. This is NOT the life we were put here to live. We are designed to thrive and we can easily start to walk in this direction through emotional awareness.
What I mean by emotional awareness is the act of acknowledging when you have an uncomfortable thought or emotion and then learning how to understand and integrate or release it in a healthy way. It sounds simple, but we are so entrained in our culture to ignore our internal sensors, we don’t even know we’re doing it. We just blindly walk to the refrigerator and grab a tub of ice cream when we are not even hungry.
What if you could learn to acknowledge and release uncomfortable emotions in a healthy way? How would your life look without that feeling of depression or anxiety? Who would you be? When we learn emotional awareness, we strengthen our emotional intelligence, thereby taking personal responsibility for how we feel moment to moment, day to day, and year to year. This level of self care can become the bricks which pave the road to a truly happy and beautiful life.
Now for some solutions.
Here’s a few tips from one of my favorite health experts, Dr. Mark Hyman, who stated in an email this morning, “We’ve seen that a greater grasp on emotional understanding correlates to increased happiness and satisfaction, along with better management of stress, while a lack of emotional balance has been linked to poorer outcomes with physical health issues.”
Luckily, we can grow our emotional intelligence and learn to manage our feelings in a graceful way. Here are my top three tips for finding a new relationship to your emotions:
- Practice deep breathing. Focus on your breath: expand your diaphragm, inhale slowly and deeply, fill your belly up and let it expand, then exhale slowly and deeply and feel your belly contract. This seemingly simple exercise can change your life. It’s a great way to support the mind-body connection and find a sense of calm. Studies have shown it helps to oxygenate the blood and supports emotional wellbeing by reducing stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and even depression. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or down, find a quiet space and practice this deep breathing technique for some instant clarity. This is also an excellent way to calm down after a stressful situation, giving you time to reflect so that you don’t react from an emotionally unstable place.
- Practice self-compassion. The minute we begin to criticize ourselves our negative thoughts and feelings become amplified. When you notice that critical self-talk creeping in, think about what you would say to a friend sharing those same thoughts with you. Chances are, you’ll be much more nurturing to them than to yourself—use that insight to turn the conversation around and recognize your self-worth. Practicing compassion with yourself and others will continue to support your emotional intelligence, communication, and depth of understanding.
- Talk it out. Sometimes all it takes to understand our emotions is sharing them with someone else. And often, saying something out loud can reveal a whole new meaning that you didn’t initially notice by going over it in your own head. Psychodynamic therapy, or talk therapy, has been found to not only alleviate symptoms during active treatment but it also has been shown to improve emotional balance after therapy has ended, thanks to the broad understanding and new perception that was gained.
Acknowledging your own emotional state is an important tool in supporting all of your other health goals. It also makes you a better friend, partner, family member, or co-worker by deepening your ability to understand others.
Emotional wellness is connected to all the areas of your life—stop running away from your feelings and start embracing them with courage. Your health will thank you!