Emotional Mindfulness

Are You Feeling It?

We are all conditioned to consider certain emotions as “unpleasant” and have all developed strategies for managing these emotions.

These emotions may include boredom, shame, fear, loneliness, despair, anger, helplessness, sadness, guilt and many others.

All emotions, including the “unpleasant” ones have their purpose, but rather than “feel” what is going on for us, we may :

  • Drink
  • Take drugs
  • Eat
  • Have sex
  • Exercise
  • Argue
  • Gossip
  • Worry
  • Text and web-surf and a multitude of other activities.

This is not a judgement on any of these behaviours – just an awareness that we are instinctually programmed to run away from “pain” and we can use what are normal and short-term behaviours in other circumstances, as ways of coping. The irony is that through our conditioned habits we usually create more pain and suffering.

Being present to our emotional state often needs to be learned and helps us in being healthier, happier and emotionally fitter.

Here are some tips for practicing emotional mindfulness:

  1. Acknowledge and label what you are feeling. You may want to “speak it” to yourself, write it down or share with someone you trust .
  1. Notice the mental drama playing out in your mind. Every emotion tells a story and you can imagine being the observer of the story (as in reading a book), rather than a character in the story. It may help to shut your eyes and imagine physically stepping back from the story playing out in your head.
  2. Notice which action the feeling makes you “want to do” and choose for the moment to take “no action” other than noticing.
  1. Stay here “noticing” as long as you can or until the feeling changes. If the urge to “act” in a certain way is strong, it can help to set a focus as in:
  • “For the next 10 breaths I will stay here and do nothing.” At the end of 10 breaths you can choose to set another “10 breath focus” if necessary.
  1. Once the feeling has passed allow a few more moments for deep breathing and quietness.

When we go to the gym and become fitter and stronger we not only cope better with everyday physical demands, we also “condition” ourselves in a positive way to live a more adventurous life.

Emotional fitness has similar rewards and supports us in living and loving more adventurously and creatively.

For the best and funniest summary of “emotional mindfulness” I have ever heard, check this out from comedian Louis C.K.

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