working mindfully with emotions
Mindfulness of feeling meditation
by Carley Hauck
*click play to listen to the meditation
Although we prefer to feel emotions such as happiness, difficult emotions are a part of being human. We can’t get rid of them, but we can learn how to manage them more constructively.
Difficult emotions such as fear, anger or sadness are often important signals alerting us to the fact that something is going on internally. If we try to supress, avoid or ignore this side of our emotional life, we’re denying a part of ourselves, and that can often be the cause of more serious mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Rather than suppressing or avoiding our emotions, mindfulness asks us to recognise and be curious about them.
Paul Ekman, psychologist and emotion guru, discovered seven universal basic emotions experienced by people in all cultures: anger, disgust, contempt, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise. According to Ekman’s research, the process of feeling an emotion follows a predictable timeline. It begins with a trigger from the external or internal world, which happens in the context of your current situation and your beliefs. This trigger leads to an emotional experience that is both a feeling and a collection of physical sensations, which then ends with a response – the emotion.
Although sometimes the responses we have to our emotions feel automatic and out of our control, we do have a choice in how we respond. The key is being able to sense the ‘spark’ of emotion – or the impulse – before it leads to an action. Unfortunately, when we’re in the grip of an emotion our rational mind goes offline, which makes it hard for us to respond wisely.
Mindfulness can help increase the gap between the impulse and action (or actual acting out of our emotions) so that we can pause and reflect rather than react impulsively. As such, we become aware of the spark of an emotion before it turns into a flame and are able to respond more wisely.
Today, if you catch yourself in a reactive moment, see if you can interrupt the emotional energy by laughing out loud (even if it feels like a forced laugh!). This can effectively disrupt the heaviness of stress. Even if it feels false or forced, just make yourself laugh. Notice how powerful laughter is in shifting the energy of your mood and bringing more lightness and playfulness into your life.
What have you discovered works to help you when you're in the midst of a big emotion? Share with the community in the Facebook group.
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