Having trouble managing your emotions? These mindfulness techniques may help.
We all experience a range of emotions throughout the day. Emotions will come and go whether we “allow” them to or not. When you learn to be mindful of your emotions and sit with them — even the uncomfortable ones — you can learn to manage them better.
Being mindful of your emotions simply means acknowledging them without judgment, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, NYC neuropsychologist and director of Comprehend the Mind explains.
We grow as people when we learn how to engage with emotions instead of pushing them away. Ignoring your emotions for too long can stunt your growth and make you less present for your loved ones.
By learning how to be mindful of your emotions you can better manage emotional reactivity and, with practice, enter a calmer mental state regularly. Here are some ways to become more mindful of your emotions.
Journaling about your emotions can help you identify patterns of fears and daily worries so you can better manage them.
Research shows journaling can
“Journaling can help to see a pattern of negative self-talk and unnecessary negative thoughts, identify roots of anxiety and voids, and perhaps be a catalyst to seek professional mental help if there is a significant need,” says Dr. Hafeez.
Looking for some journal prompts to help you get started? Consider these articles:
There is growing evidence to show the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation on emotion management. According to the
Benefits include helping to manage:
- substance use
Meditation has positively been shown to change the neural pathways in the brain over time. It does not require any tools, props, or money, Dr. Hafeez explains.
You can find many free guided meditations on Youtube or through meditation apps. The more people practice meditation, the more accessible and practical it becomes to get into a meditative state.
Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for those who experience intense emotions. This therapy employs strategies like:
- emotional regulation
DBT is a common treatment method for those with borderline personality disorder (BPD), and therapists use it in other contexts, too. It can be used one-on-one or in small groups.
DBT takes a practical approach in helping people accept life’s realities and their behavior, Dr. Hafeez states. It works on changing and bettering lives by reducing unhelpful behaviors.
To accomplish this, DBT builds fundamental skills such as:
- interpersonal effectiveness
- distress tolerance
- emotional regulation
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) combines CBT with mindfulness techniques.
MBCT helps clients to become aware of and separate themselves from their thoughts and feelings. Clients learn to change their relationship with negative emotions rather than becoming caught up in them.
They learn to respond differently to these emotions and alter automatic thoughts related to these negative moods and emotions, Danielle Dellaquila, LMSW, CBT, DBT, an associate therapist at Gateway to Solutions in New York City, explains.
Through developing mindfulness practices, clients begin to use mindfulness in place of their prior ways of coping with challenging emotions to move through them more helpfully.
“Don’t try to interpret what your feelings mean for the future or how those thoughts got there in the first place — just observe them in the current moment,” says Katie Moore, PsyD.
For example, the thought, “I’m going to fail that test” or “they’re not going to hire me” are just thoughts. It doesn’t mean anything yet.
You can choose to do what you want with that thought — you can ignore it and hope that it goes away, you can try to analyze it and potentially make yourself more anxious about it, or you can simply notice that that thought has occurred and allow it to exist, Moore adds.
You don’t have to take action. Those feelings can exist in their own cave, separate from you, while you prepare for that interview.
The biggest takeaway from mindfulness is self-acceptance. We don’t need to be anyone but who we are right now. We aren’t perfect, and that’s ok. No one is.
This isn’t to say that we can’t still make positive changes in our life, but in this exact moment, if you can accept yourself for who you are, you will be better equipped to handle daily emotions and will likely be in a healthier place when it does come time to make any desired changes, Moore explains.
Grounding techniques help you connect to your senses and become more fully engaged in the present moment.
“For people who get overwhelmed or dissociated, I recommend grounding techniques,” says Kara Nassour, LPC, NCC. “My favorite is to identify five things you can see, four things you can hear, and three things you can touch. This helps your brain slow down and feel more connected, helping you process the emotion.”
Mindfulness benefits emotional regulation by providing mental clarity and grounding you in the present moment. Techniques include:
- practicing self-acceptance
- grounding techniques
How you perceive events largely determines the emotions you experience. As the Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
Emotions are part of the human experience and while not all emotions are pleasant, it’s helpful to understand that they will pass. Knowing that all feelings are temporary, you can better cope when stressful situations arise.