“Anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment.” ~Tori Rodriguez
Everyone has different ways of expressing emotions. In my family, I learned that you stuffed your emotions – it was all about appearances and we wanted to look happy. When my father was angry, he stuffed his emotions and gave us the silent treatment. I learned this was the way to deal with emotions. However, after developing a mindfulness and meditation practice, I learned that this was not an effective or healthy way to deal with emotions. I now know how important it is to express emotions in a conscious manner.
Stuffing your emotions is like holding a ball under water; you can keep it under water for a while, but at some point it’s going to pop up. That’s what happens with your emotions. You might be able to hold your tongue when you are angry and suppress the emotion, but it will come out and you might lash out at someone (it may or may not be the person you were angry at intially). Or if you never express the emotion, it may manifest in your body and lead to dis-ease that turns to disease. Research has shown that stuffing our emotions can lead to heart disease and cancer.
I have been at mindfulness presentations and asked to think of a time when I was upset or afraid and to notice where the tension appeared in my body. Initially I wasn’t good at that exercise – I couldn’t feel the emotion in my body. But, then I began to practice listening to my body when the emotions of anger or fear arose. When I start to get upset, I pause and listen to my body. For me, I feel the tension in my chest, it is a constrictive feeling like a weight being placed on my chest and I also find that my shoulders and jaw become tense. When this happens, I take a few long slow deep breaths and practice releasing the tension in body. Once I regain composure, I consciously deal with the fear or anger. If it is fear, I ask myself if I am truly in danger and deal with the situation. If I am not in imminent danger, I examine my perceptions and determine what is really going on – why is my ego afraid. If I am angry, I evaluate why I am upset and how to get my needs met in a constructive manner. Everyone expresses emotions in the body differently – you need to determine how and where you hold emotions in your body.
Am I successful at doing this all of the time? – NO! But awareness has helped me see that expressing emotions is far healthier than stuffing them. My daily meditation practice allows me to come from a calmer state of mind and I don’t react inappropriately as often as I once did. I practice living in the present moment and continually work on listening to my body. Staying in my body leads to a healthier life and allows for more contentment.
Do you feel emotions when they arise in your body?
What part of your body do you feel emotions and what do they feel like?
How can you release any negative emotions in your body?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
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