Have you ever felt a difficult emotion come up such as stressanger, worry, or loneliness, and thought “ugh, I’m feeling that crummy emotion again?” This is a common response to uncomfortable emotions as our instinct is often to push those feelings away and make room for something more positive.

However, pushing emotions away can actually give them more power as we try to avoid rather than dealing with what the emotion is trying to tell us. By incorporating mindfulness and reframing the way we view emotions, we can feel more in control of our emotions while also being gentle with ourselves.

Most of us likely think of our emotions as experiential. For example, if anxiety arises, we might think to ourselves, “I’m feeling anxious.” While this is a natural thought to have, this can intensify how the emotion feels in our body, which might lead to wanting to avoid the emotion. Try instead saying, “I’m noticing that feelings of anxiety are present.” Notice how it feels to step back from the emotion and take the role of observing.

Pick an uncomfortable emotion that visits you, and practice this. First say, “I’m feeling (identified emotion).” Notice what you feel in your body. Any feelings of discomfort, tightness, or tension? Also notice any thoughts that may come up. Perhaps thoughts of wishing the emotion wasn’t there, or thoughts of wanting to resist or get away from the emotion?

Now with the same emotion, say, “feelings of (identified emotion) are present.” Notice what physical sensations or thoughts might be different with this simple change of language. It might feel like the emotion is less intense, like there is more distance from the emotion, or you may notice that a physical sensation from the emotion, such as a point of tension or discomfort, has decreased.

Moving into witnessing emotions often leads to feeling less physical symptoms of the emotion, while allowing us to access our logical thinking more easily. It may also help to build self-acceptance of the emotion that is visiting you, as well as insight into when and how emotions arise.

So the next time a big emotion comes your way, try stating, “I’m noticing that feelings of (identified emotion) are present,” and allow yourself to step back from the feeling. Moving to being an observer of emotions puts you more in control to handle what’s next.

Kaitlyn Richter

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