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How To Use Mindfulness To Regulate Your Emotions

Written by: Laryssa Levesque, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Navigating our emotions can be tough, especially when we are dealing with very intense or unpleasant emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and so on. If you are someone who struggles to regulate their emotions, then this article is for you. Keep reading to learn more about how we can unburden ourselves from emotional baggage and use mindfulness skills to better regulate our emotions.

What is Emotion Regulation


Emotion regulation is a skill that involves identifying, managing, and responding to our emotions in a way that will be helpful to us and our current situation. We face many emotions on a daily basis, so it is important to be able to respond to them in appropriate ways, rather than letting them take over or ignoring them altogether. The latter are two ways that many people try to cope with their emotions, but in effect do more harm than good (read an article on this here). Emotional suppression or avoidance are common unhealthy emotion regulation strategies that can lead to a number of issues like anxiety, depression, burnout, physical ailments and sleep difficulties.


Conversely, healthy emotion regulation strategies may include talking your feelings through with a friend or therapist, journaling, reframing the situation to see the events more clearly and objectively, intentionally engaging in positive activities, and self-compassionately validating our experiences. At the basis of healthy emotion regulation is the ability to notice and label our emotions so that we can connect with why we are feeling the way we are and then respond accordingly. This is where mindfulness skills are crucial.


What is Mindfulness


In brief, mindfulness is the skill of paying attention to the present moment on purpose. There is a nonjudgmental element to it as we are only to observe and notice the present moment with curiosity and compassion, rather than to critique our current experiences.


There are many benefits to mindfulness such as reduced anxiety, depression, stress, and increased happiness and fulfilment in life. Not to mention, mindfulness meditation has been linked to positive effects on our physical health such as better immune system functioning, cardiovascular health, sleep quality, GI functioning, as well as reduced pain and blood pressure. Here is an article on simple ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life.


How Mindfulness Can Help Regulate Emotions


There are several ways that mindfulness can help regulate our emotions. Since mindfulness involves being present, it helps take us out of our heads and allows us to be more calm. Taking a few deep breaths to ground yourself in the present moment lowers emotional intensity and gets us out of the fight-or-flight response which is linked to heightened emotional arousal and reactivity.


Secondly, mindfulness creates space between our emotions and actions so that we can better respond to a given situation. Rather than reacting, we can slow down and mindfully observe what is going on to make decisions based on emotion and logic.


And finally, because mindfulness enables us to be in an observer role to our internal experiences rather than being consumed by them, we can better accept and tolerate the uncomfortable emotions. When emotions are distressing, people are more likely to engage in unhealthy emotional control strategies such as self-harm, binge eating, substance abuse, taking naps to avoid the feelings, or becoming numb and disconnected to suppress the discomfort. By staying with our emotions in a mindful state, we learn that emotions can’t actually hurt us and that they won’t last forever, therefore allowing us to tolerate emotional distress better and regulate in ways that will be more helpful.


4 Steps to Mindfully Regulate Emotions


Mindfulness is simple in theory, but does take consistent practice to master and achieve the full benefits. Here are 4 simple steps to get you started in your mindfulness practice that will help you learn to regulate your emotions better:


Step 1: Notice


Take a deep breath to orient yourself to the present moment. Notice what is happening for you and label the emotion you are experiencing.


Step 2: Observe


Investigate and observe what is happening for you. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? How intense is the emotion? What is your posture like or breathing rate? If any thoughts or judgements arise about the emotions, just notice them, and bring your attention back to the present moment with a breath. This step is simply to explore what is happening for you internally (i.e., thoughts, body sensations, emotions, mental images).


Step 3: Accept


Whatever you are feeling and experiencing is valid. Acknowledge this self-compassionately. No emotions are good or bad; they just are. So instead of trying to push them away or talk yourself out of how you are feeling, lean into the emotion and accept its presence.


Step 4: Respond


Here we want to respond rather than react to whatever situation is stirring up our big emotions. Ask yourself what will be most helpful to you in this situation. Use your emotions as a guide to inform your needs, but use objectiveness to determine your options, coping skills, and possible consequences of your actions. Perhaps you need to get some fresh air, eat something if you’re hangry, or talk to a friend.


The Bottom Line


From time to time, we all feel strong and bothersome emotions that can make us react in ways we later regret or aren’t characteristic of us. Learning to regulate our emotions is an important skill for healthy coping. We can use mindfulness, which involves nonjudgmentally paying attention to the present moment, to identify and accept our emotions so that we can then respond to the emotionally difficult situation in a productive way. If you have trouble regulating your emotions, you might want to consider speaking to a licensed therapist who can provide emotional support and assist you in developing these skills.


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Laryssa Levesque, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Laryssa is a Registered Psychotherapist and entrepreneur. She is the owner and clinical director of a virtual mental health practice, Inner Growth Counselling & Psychotherapy, that provides comfortable, down-to-earth, and genuine therapy services to children, teens, adults, couples, and families. Her mission is to modernize therapy by making it accessible and convenient for people to seek help, and to destigmatize mental health issues. She believes that everyone would benefit from therapy to help them rediscover their authentic self, find balance and control in life, and live more meaningfully, free of the burden of mental health issues.

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