This article by Irina Yugay was originally published on Mindvalley.
Learning how to control your emotions is easier said than done. But it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
Left unchecked, thoughts and emotions have the potential to take over our lives. All that we do seems to be controlled by what we feel. And when these feelings are unpleasant, it’s easy to feel trapped and overwhelmed.
Here’s how to control your emotions and regain your emotional stability.
Can We Control Emotions?
Our emotions are a byproduct of our thoughts. And while it’s not easy to regulate our thoughts or emotions, it is possible.
Of course, our success in navigating these emotional states is contingent on the emotions themselves.
For example, it’s a lot easier to deal with a feeling, like disappointment, than it is to deal with grief over the loss of a loved one.
But you don’t need to feel like your emotions are permanently in the driver’s seat. You can take control of your life and your emotions.
How Do You Master Your Emotions?
Reversing a downward spiral takes both effort and time. But you can do it. Self-control isn’t as difficult to achieve as we think; it can be done. How?
Here are 4 ways to manage your emotions and practice greater self-control:
There is something absolutely magical about a smile. Try this for yourself – next time you are feeling blue, or red-hot with anger, smile. That’s all.
Did you know that it is physiologically impossible to have bad feelings if you are smiling?
It sounds silly; but seriously, try it. It really works. If you wake up sad, stressed, or angry, smile at yourself in the mirror first thing in the morning. Just stand there and smile at yourself.
Make yourself do it even if you don’t want to. Hold that smile until it’s genuine.
Hold that smile until… Do you know what will happen? You’re going to burst out laughing whether you want to or not!
Any time you feel bad, just smile. A smile that is genuine lights you up. It’s a physical action so in harmony with love that it can’t help but make you feel better.
Meditation changes your relationship to your emotions. It’s not denial – it’s a shift of focus.
Sometimes the best way to accomplish something is to do nothing. In this case, just ‘being’ is enough to shift your mood.
You can do a quick meditation anytime you need to calm yourself and gain a bit of self-control.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing for as long as it takes you to calm down. Feel the inhale and exhale; count your breaths if you like. Do whatever it takes to keep your focus on your breath and off the situation at hand.
That’s all there is to it!
This little time-out will give you time to gather your thoughts and perhaps see the situation in a different light. It is a great step in learning how to control your emotions.
Check out this enlightening video of the Dalai Lama talking about meditation:
3. Give It A Minute And A Half
When a negative emotion hits you, be aware that it takes just 90 seconds for it to pass through your system. From the time your limbic system generates the emotion to the time that chemical reaction dissipates, is a minute and a half.
If you simply feel the emotion – and don’t get involved in the thought that generated it by repeating “I feel (angry, sad, etc.)” – it will pass and you’ll regain your equilibrium.
Be wary of identifying with your emotions using the words, “I am.” You are not your emotions!
Try this tip next time you have a sad or upsetting thought. Repeat to yourself how you are feeling, but don’t allow yourself to stray from that focus. Don’t think about what made you upset. Feel the feeling and let it go; your self-control will intensify!
Pretty cool stuff!
4. Do What You Love
When you’re immersed in some activity you’re passionate about, and you’re really focused on what you’re doing, it’s difficult to feel bad.
Doing what you love uplifts you in so many ways! Do it, and do it as often as possible.
You’ll be happier and better able to cope with life’s monkey wrenches when your life is meaningful and when you do what you love.
What Happens When You Can’t Control Your Emotions?
If you’ve tried all of the above strategies and are still having trouble controlling your emotions, it’s time to take a different approach.
Some emotions are too powerful to be controlled at the moment. Sometimes we’re too overwhelmed by past experiences, traumas, and grief. And that’s okay.
The key to navigating these heavy emotional moments is to stop fighting and start accepting. The difficult emotions are uncomfortable, yes. But learning to sit with them is key.
Don’t resist what’s happening. If you can’t turn it off or push it away, stop struggling.
Acknowledge what you’re feeling and start working through it. Write about it. Keep a journal. Tell a friend.
Emotions can rule your life – or you can learn to work alongside them towards a healthier, better-balanced future.
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