By Dori Best, integrated behavioral health clinician
How to listen to our emotions
What do you think or feel when you hear the words emotional wellness?
When I ask my clients this question, some of them say “I think of it as a treasure, or someplace peaceful, or being in a steady and quiet place.” I would add that all those words sound heavenly, right? Even more, those words can evoke in our minds wonderful and dreamy images of happy people dressed in white, smiling on a warm and sunny beach. We might wonder, can it even be possible, with all that is happening in our world, to achieve emotional well-being?
I hear my clients say that they have a hard time connecting in a healthy way with their emotions. They say that they feel a lot of difficult emotions, sometimes so strongly that they truly get lost in them. When that happens, emotions can feel like chaotic waves that swallow them up and make them feel like they cannot stand up on solid ground to stop the mental noise and breathe.
Feelings like these might make people want to avoid emotions at all, forgetting that emotions are a distinctive feature of our human condition. Emotions are part of our guidance system, helping us know what we need to do. For example, joy and happiness lead us to keep doing things that benefits us; fear steers us away from things that might be dangerous for us. Listening to and understanding our emotions can be a powerful way to transform them. It can help us feel replenished and quiet our minds.
How can we listen to our emotions before they get too loud? How can we transform them into replenishing emotions and help us feel more peaceful?
Here are a few ideas I share with my clients. Try doing them every day or as often as you can.
Set aside quiet time and engage in mindful, replenishing breathing.
- Find a comfortable and quiet place and sit alone for 20 minutes or more. This might feel scary when the mind and emotions are too noisy, but in time, this will turn our emotional and mental life into a quiet and peaceful ocean.
- Engage in a pattern of deep and comfortable breathing, focusing your attention on your heart area. Connect with any emotions that might arise.
- Allow the emotions to come up. Recognize them. Do not attach a meaning, reason, or a story to them. Just feel them and allow them to stay while you keep breathing in and out. Do this until you feel them start to dissolve.
- Again, bring your attention into your heart area as you breathe air in and out of your chest. Connect with your heart and the replenishing emotions of love, peace, and calmness. Allow one of these emotions to sink into your chest. As you breathe it in and out, allow the new and replenishing emotion to sink into your entire body.
Spend quiet time in nature.
Taking your shoes off and sitting on the ground, allow the peaceful sights and sounds of nature and the fresh air to nourish your body. Let it quiet your mind and transform your emotional inner world.
Create a gratitude journal.
Savor those things that you are grateful for, allowing the feeling of gratitude to sink into your entire body.
Tip: Remember that all feelings are important and can help us decide what to do when things happen in our lives. It is natural to have a variety of feelings and we can choose what we do with them. Talk with friends or other people you trust for support when you need it.