How recognizing your emotions aids mental health

There are times when you are only too aware of your emotional state; you know when you are furious with a driver who cuts in front of you for instance. However, on other occasions, you are likely to push down your emotions, ignore them, rationalize them or try to hide them by attempting to feel better. While these options could be useful short-term measures if you are in a situation where letting rip would be unwise, failing to recognize your emotional state in good time or not doing so could influence your mental health.

You might imagine you always express your feelings. Nonetheless, the many ways people hide from their emotions are often habits that are difficult to notice. Any behavior you engage in to ‘feel better’ imply you are distracting yourself from your current state. After all, if you need to feel better, you aren’t happy. Drinking alcohol, eating biscuits or watching an engaging movie could be methods you use to distance yourself from what you feel.

Distraction can be an effective form of pain control when someone is undergoing a chronic illness. However, when applied emotionally, it plugs the gap for a while, but doesn’t lead to relief. Thus, one or two digestives might not be enough somehow, even though you aren’t hungry. You might eat the entire packet and be left with a bulging stomach, while the angst that caused the problem remains.

Accepting your emotions means that they don’t need to shout louder to be heard. Doing so won’t necessarily make concerns disappear, but it can stop them growing and give you a chance to deal with issues rather than pretending they don’t exist. On the other hand, there is a difference between venting for the sake of venting or intensifying negative emotions by going over them too often. Finding a middle way results in balance and a more harmonious mental state.

Buddhist philosophy offers a useful approach, suggesting that you sit with your feelings, not trying to alter them in any way. By allowing your feelings to exist, you don’t deny your basic need to have them. Shutting them out signals that you believe they are distasteful and shouldn’t be permitted. Once you recognize them and calmly experience them, you don’t have the added pressure of guilt for having feelings; you respect your natural way of being.

As you acknowledge your emotions, remind yourself that they are normal and you are not wrong to experience them. You bear a responsibility for how you behave, not allowing your passion to control your actions negatively, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with anything you feel. Just knowing this can take away pressure and bring some relief.

The next time you have the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry, drink alcohol to make you feel better, or carry out another potentially distancing form of action, consider what you are feeling right there and then. Notice whatever it is, and give yourself 100% permission to feel as you do. Know that your emotions are natural and shared by everyone else on the planet at some time or the other, and that they will pass with time if you don’t squash, hide, cover, or push them away.

About bridget

bridget webber

Bridget Webber’s background rests in mental health, counselling, hypnotherapy, NLP and art. She brings knowledge from her experiences into her writing and specializes in emotional wellness and the creation of, rather than search for, joy. You can catch up with her insights and musings on Twitter.

Twitter: @InsightManager

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