Soothe Your Emotions by Practicing Mindfulness - dummies

Soothe Your Emotions by Practicing Mindfulness

By Shamash Alidina, Joelle Jane Marshall

Here, you discover the mindful way to manage emotions — the steps to take when you’re feeling low, excessively angry or uncomfortably anxious. Positive emotions can be a wonderful feeling. Joy, elation, excitement and happiness all feel great. But how can you deal with so-called negative emotions?

Use mindfulness for emotional health

Mindfulness is becoming a powerful, vital part of many psychological treatments. Experts are researching mindfulness in the areas of anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and relapse prevention for addiction.

The evidence for mindfulness as a treatment for recurring depression is so strong that it’s the recommended and supported approach by the UK’s National Health Service. Evidence for the other conditions is in early stages, but looks promising.

Mindfulness also raises your subjective wellbeing — commonly known as happiness! Even a few weeks of mindfulness practice has been shown to create positive changes in the brain and long-term meditators display levels of wellbeing far higher than average.

Understand the nature of emotions

Experiencing emotions is completely natural. For some people, the experience of emotions is mild — they don’t feel emotions strongly — whereas other people have wild fluctuations of emotion from one moment to another.

Consider for a moment how you relate to your emotions: do you think of them as an experience to be embraced or do you shy away from them; perhaps you try to fight or push away some emotions, yet cling to others.

Mindfulness encourages you simply to be aware of your emotions with mindful attitudes, such as compassion, curiosity, acceptance and openness.

Imagine that you’re feeling anxious at the moment. You can even try evoking some anxiety right now by thinking about something you’re a bit concerned about. Now go through each attribute to see how it can help you cope with your emotions:

  • Awareness: Helps you feel the emotion in your body. Notice in what part of your body you feel the emotion itself. Without the awareness, your emotional response is automatic and can’t change.

  • Self-compassion: Helps you to be understanding of the fact that you’re feeling anxious. If a friend was feeling anxious, what soothing words would you say? Now say those words to yourself. Perhaps gently place your hand on the area of the emotion in your body in a caring, loving way.

  • Curiosity: Helps you to shift your attitude from unhealthy avoidance to a healthier approach state. Become aware of its size, shape, possibly associated color, scent and texture. Notice whether the bodily emotion is getting bigger or smaller with each breath you take.

  • Acceptance: Helps you process the emotion. See whether you can allow your emotion to be just as it is, in this moment. Try saying to yourself, ‘The feeling is already here . . . it’s okay . . . let it be.’ Also try feeling your breathing and the emotion together.

  • Openness: Helps you shift your perspective. As best you can step back from your emotion and make space for it to just be there. Become a curious but dispassionate observer. Imagine yourself as being distanced from the emotion. Try saying, ‘I’m watching this anxiety . . . I’m the observer . . . the witness . . .’.

Overall, this process helps to switch off your unhelpful avoidance mode of mind and switch on your approach mode.

Write down how any emotion that affects you. Write down what you’re feeling and how you’re likely to behave while feeling like it. Be as honest as you can; try not to write what you think you should do, but what you actually do.

Record Your Mindful Approach to Emotions
Emotion Thoughts Where
You Feel It in Your Body
The Feeling in Your Body The Action You Take While Feeling That Emotion The Effect of a Mindful Approach