We need reflective space every day to acknowledge and to process our emotions. Whether this means in counselling, time with friends, talking to loved ones, opening up in a shared group or online forum or writing about it, working through our emotions is vital…
And it’s important that you can find ways to work this into your daily life, rather than only turning to it when you’re running on empty.
‘One simple but powerful ritual for defusing negative emotions is what we call “buying time’’, explains Tony Schwartz. ‘Deep abdominal breathing is one way to do that. Exhaling slowly for five or six seconds induces relaxation and recovery, and turns off the fight-or-flight response.’
Holly Wei, associate professor in graduate leadership concentration, explains that social support and connectedness are critical to good health. ‘People with strong social support and relationships have a lower risk of psychological issues than those who lack that support,’ she says. And building those networks of support is good for the body too. Positive relationships and interactions affects the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system and oxytocin pathways -all areas that helps us to manage our emotions and build resilience.
Schwartz also recommends the ritual of gratitude or appreciation of others. A form of loving kindness, this is a powerful ritual that fuels positive emotions. ‘It can take the form of a handwritten note, an e-mail, a call, or a conversation – and the more detailed and specific, the higher the impact. As with all rituals, setting aside a particular time to do it vastly increases the chances of success,’ says Schwartz.
We can also cultivate positive emotions by reframing our experience of events. This is often something counselling, or therapies such as CBT are good for, but you can do it yourself too. ‘Often, people in conflict cast themselves in the role of victim, blaming others or external circumstances for their problems,’ says Schwartz. ‘Becoming aware of the difference between the facts in a given situation and the way we interpret those facts can be powerful in itself.’ Learn to change the stories you tell yourself about the events in your lives. Turn them into hopeful, beautiful stories, find the meaning or the lesson and consider how differently you feel.
You can also try simple things too. Hugging might seem a strange one, but the oxytocin burst you get from hugging can actually make you feel euphoric and often act to level out any wobbly emotions. ‘Hugging is based on co-regulation where you can regulate your nervous system with someone else’s regulated nervous system,’ explains energy expert Kate Northrup. Find someone who is calm, and hug them for as long as it takes for your body to relax, which is usually about 20 seconds or so.
Northrup also recommends singing loudly. ‘I find it really helps me,’ she says. ‘Sing a song that you feel emotionally connected to really loudly. Allow it to bring up any feelings (laughter, crying, anger) and let those out as you sing.’