Living mindfully involves appreciating every moment consciously and noticing every nuance in every action. This includes eating, drinking, sitting, hugging and why, even smiling! Isn’t it refreshing when we slow down and experience everything more fully, in a focused manner?
What about emotional mindfulness, though?
Sometimes, even though we practice mindfulness of our surroundings and keep calm, things happen that ruffle our mental state. We experience anger, fear, anxiety, disappointment and a range of other emotions. We’re human, after all.
The interesting part? It is not always the emotion that is important – it is the way it fills our head, blinding us to everything else, as though nothing else matters. It could be a major thing like a loss, something that went wrong, some unexpected event that hurt you. Or it could be something like not receiving enough likes on a status update on your Facebook page. I won’t use the word “trivial” here because the size of an issue is simply a matter of personal perspective.
Whatever it is, the feeling, the emotion, drags one down. Sometimes, we just can’t seem to rationalize the way we feel, even though somewhere in the corner of our minds, we know exactly what to do. But blinded by the haze created by our feelings, we often end up saying or doing things we don’t mean to – and of course, regret sets in to take up permanent residence in our psyche.
Later, when our minds clear up, we wish we had controlled ourselves better. But that’s not the real issue, you know. Remember that time you were seething inside but put a smile on your face and pretended to agree with your boss/your partner/your friend/your children/your neighbors/your parents because you didn’t want to rock the boat?
Just being in control doesn’t change a thing.
So, is venting it out better?
Maybe a little, but not entirely, because there’s the possibility of playing the blame game when you “talk it out”, leaving you with an unresolved issue.
Ignoring it won’t make it disappear. Rather, it will build up and affect your health – mental and physical.
So, how do you tackle this?
The problem is, we allow thoughts fuel our emotions and come in the way of resolving them. Instead of reacting to strong emotions, how about sitting with them and watching them as they course through our body? No emotion is permanent. How about allowing it to soften and then choosing our response to it?
Emotional mindfulness is all about figuring out what triggers it and takes you on the rollercoaster ride to regrettable words and action, and then, acknowledging it.
While living mindfully is a great start to calm your mind, the trick is to recognize the emotional triggers, acknowledge them and choose how your respond.
How do you do this?
Start by noticing what’s around you
See what’s happening around you. Observe. What is your reaction to this? How does your body feel?
Maintain a ranting journal
Yes. Rather than say things to someone and regret it later, how about using a journal instead It is a great way to safely get it all out of your system. Pretty much like a food journal you know, that you use to analyze your diet. Carry the ranting journal around with you. Once you calm down over a situation, write down how you feel, who was involved, what was around you, how it physically felt – and just about anything you can think of. Over a period of time, you will see a pattern. You will become aware of how some people or events influence the way you feel.
Get to the source of those emotions
This is the crucial step. When you identify what triggers your emotions, the next step is to practice mindfulness the moment you feel those emotions surfacing.
After you find the source of your emotions, focus on separating the emotion so that you can stop it from involuntarily getting triggered. Think about how your antivirus program works – it isolates a threat and quarantines it, followed by either neutralizing or eliminating to prevent it from doing any harm. Same thing with emotional mindfulness. Once you identify the threat, you isolate it. You acknowledge it and perhaps swallow it and digest it, so it can no longer mess with your mind. But first, you must wallow in the emotion.
This is going to be painful, yes. You will have to mindfully acknowledge it, engulf it and then neutralize it. In the process, you will be immersed in the emotion. That’s the uncomfortable part, and not an easy one. You will consciously experience the emotion in all its rawness, empathize with it, understand it and make it harmless. This way, by breaking it down to its basics, you will ensure that it no longer threatens your emotional well-being, releasing the energy that was trapped in it.
It is very important to remember that emotional mindfulness is NOT easy. Emotions that we’ve been harboring inside for years don’t just go away. Conquering them with emotional mindfulness will put us through the wringer and of course, we’ll go through intense hurt. And this time, it will be worth it, because we won’t allow it to make us miserable. Instead, we’ll be diverting the energy towards more positive things.
How long will it take to achieve this? That depends on the individual practicing emotional mindfulness. But when those emotions are overcome, you will feel great mental peace and clarity.
Here’s a simple 3 minute exercise that might help
- Sit comfortably
- Close your eyes
- Focus on your breathing
- Allow your mind to recall a recent situation that felt emotionally stressful
- Relive the experience.
- How and what did you feel?
- Do a body scan
- Where do you sense reactions?
- Hold it.
- Observe the sensation.
- Is it tension in a particular area?
- Examine it with curiosity, non-judgmentally.
- Watch it ebb and flow, rise and fall…and shift
- If you find your mind wandering, harness it back with deep breathing
- Bring your focus back to the sensation in your body
- Pretend to surf these emotions, just as you would a wave in the ocean.
- Be acutely aware of this until the feeling subsides.
- Return to your breathing
- Do another body scan
- Do you feel any sensations now?
- Pay attention to them.
- Acknowledge them.
- Now open your eyes.
You’ll often find that the physical sensation is not as intense as the emotional one. Take strength from it. No one said letting go is easy! But it is so worth it. Accept it.
And remember you can do it!