How do you experience your emotions? Are they ever strong, random, or seem irrational? You may find yourself “overreacting” in situations that normally wouldn’t be a big deal, or that you don’t think are that important.
You may get stuck in a low vibration emotional state, such as:
Can you identify with any of these emotional states?
Mindfulness is a great skill to help shift to a better feeling (and higher vibration) emotional state. Go back to the last blog for ways to cultivate a daily practice, even if you feel too distracted or like you don’t have enough time.
Let’s explore emotions on a deeper level…
The Emotional Reaction
Emotions come and go in waves. They can be triggered by people, the environment, or even by your own thoughts. They are often a reaction that is not always easily understood.
The greatest struggle of emotions comes not from the experience itself, but the depths of the story that accompanies them.
Mindfulness can be one of the best tools when it comes to addressing emotional spirals; research supports that it can help improve emotional regulation (Guendelman, 2017).
The 3 Elements of Emotions
With all of the noise and constant change going on in the world and in your personal life, it’s important to intentionally take time to feel and process your emotions.
Emotions possess three key elements, and addressing these elements is a segway to better understanding our emotions. These three elements include subjective responses, physiological responses, and behavioral responses. Let’s review those below:
A universal emotion (ex. anger) may be felt differently by different people
Emotions have “ranges” that are different for everyone
Emotions are not always pure - meaning we can experience mixed emotions
Different and even opposite emotions can occur simultaneously or after one another (ex. nervousness and excitement)
Stomach turning or in a “knot”
Responses are regulated by our autonomic nervous system
Activation of the amygdala, or part of the brain that is linked to motivational states and emotional/fear triggered responses
Understood by emotional intelligence
Universal expressions (ex. smiling means happy, frowning means sad)
Affected by sociocultural norms
RAIN is a specific Mindfulness technique developed by Michele McDonald about 20 years ago. This technique can be used to help build a healthy relationship with your emotions. RAIN is an acronym for: Recognize, Acknowledge, Investigate, and Non-identify.
Recognize: To experience and process an emotion, we first have to notice it. For example, if I have a conversation with a friend and I feel angry because I feel like my boundaries have been crossed, I have the choice to either push it away and suppress it, or acknowledge this reaction.
When working on recognizing, it’s helpful to say it out loud to yourself, or even journal about it: “I feel angry right now”.
Acknowledge: Here, we accept and allow for whatever we are feeling to be there. In a sense, we are giving this feeling permission to exist in us. You may find yourself feeling shame or create an excuse for feeling a certain way. Instead, here we are going to greet the emotion and rename how we see it.
Rather than labeling our feelings as “wrong”, we give self-compassion and allow for them to be there, even in the discomfort. By doing this, we don’t let the feelings control us, rather come to a place of accepting that they’re there.
Investigate: Now let’s use the space we’ve created to ask questions. Again, with a perspective of love and not judgement, we approach our questioning with curiosity and openness rather than frustration and impatience with ourselves.
Instead of being reactive, we explore and examine the emotions we’re feeling. These emotions can seem intricate and messy, with all sorts of triggers and thoughts attached.
As we continue to approach them with this sense of curiosity and investigation, it allows us to gain insight rather than wallow in them. While negative emotions may still arise, we handle them in a space of much less tension. Believe it or not, this is progress!
Non-Identify: The last step of RAIN is where we intentionally disallow ourselves to identify with the feeling, even as we interact with it. Here we must ensure we don’t begin to believe our feelings and emotions define who or what kind of person we are. For example, just because we got frustrated with a person or situation, does not translate to “I am an impatient and angry person”.
While we must allow ourselves to see the emotion, we also must translate these observations compassionately towards ourselves. By first being compassionate towards ourselves, we create the foundation for our ability to also be compassionate towards others.
I know there is a lot to unpack here and the reality is, this is deep work! But in order to be able to handle our emotions in a mindful way, we must be able to acknowledge them at their roots.
As you begin to process your emotions, I encourage you to practice patience. I know, I know, not the easiest thing to do! Remember that, at the end of the day, you’re re-learning how to react in a way that is different from how you have been your entire life, so it’s going to take practice!
As we learn to be compassionate towards ourselves, we can have healthy relationships with our feelings and emotions, and ultimately become the highest version of ourselves that we know is within us.
If you're meeting a lot of resistance with your emotions, consider scheduling a private session using the button below.
Guendelman, S., Medeiros, S., & Rampes, H. (1AD). Mindfulness and Emotion regulation: Insights from Neurobiological, psychological, and clinical studies. Frontiers. Retrieved September 18, 2021, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00220/full.