Understanding our emotions is the key to a happy life. That sounds like quite a statement, but the more I learn and understand about emotional intelligence, the more it makes sense.
Our emotions affect everything – how we feel throughout the day, our relationships with family and friends, our working lives and perhaps most importantly, our relationship with ourselves. The good news is that we can change them. We are in the driving seat and we choose the route.
Of course, there are times when our emotions will naturally take hold in response to an event out of our control. A pandemic, a bereavement, a break-up, the loss of a job. These are the times when we learn how to work our way through unimaginable feelings. These are the times when we need to be patient with ourselves and allow our minds to navigate their way through the fog.
But as each day passes us by, we need to be careful not to get stuck on autopilot. If things don’t feel right, we shouldn’t accept it. If things feel good, we should identify this and enjoy these moments. Understanding our emotions and learning how to manage them will help us appreciate the highs and manage the lows. Let’s start with the three steps to success.
Recognise your feelings…
There isn’t one technique that will ever suit everyone at any time. There is so much self-help out there, it can get confusing. Your friend might have found this amazing new yoga class, but you can’t even touch your toes, let alone bend your body into a Half Spinal Twist. A run along the riverbank or high street might work better for you. Some techniques may also take time to master, such as meditation. I had to really practise being able to switch off, and there are times when I have to stop my mind from hopping onto the train of endless day-to-day thoughts.
You’ll also find that some techniques suit certain moods. If you’re anxious, the energy may be too high for you to focus on meditating. Try taking slow deep breaths to bring your awareness into the present. If you need to concentrate on work and your mind is distracted by worry, meditation might help clear your head. If you’re feeling low, a walk in nature could help you appreciate your surroundings and lift your spirits. Find what works for you and when.
Sometimes, it may take time to process a negative feeling. Your tried and tested methods aren’t working. The important thing to remember is that emotions are transient. However bad this feeling is now, it will pass. Don’t ignore it, just sit with it for a little bit, and keep working on it. Just make sure you record it. When you’re ready, work your way through your techniques again. This may be the opportunity to ask a friend or family member for a chat. Listening to another perspective from someone you trust might just help you move through it. Even better, they’re likely to find a way to bring a smile to your face.
All this work on understanding your emotions will help the relationships with those around you. How often do you walk away from someone and think you might have said or done something to upset them? They may have passed you in the street and not stopped to say hello. The brain immediately goes down the self-critical route. The chances are they have something going on.
Think about the times when you want to grab an oat milk latte and head straight to the office or whizz in and out of the supermarket on your way home. Your mind is on the task in hand or you’re not feeling sociable right now. Other times, you’re up for a chat. That’s OK. But understand that other people feel this way too. Managing your own emotions will help you understand those of others. It’s like wrapping yourself in a protective shield. Any perceived negative emotions from others will bounce off.
We all try to put on a brave face, but sometimes it’s OK not to. We might want to let it all out with a close friend, or we might need time alone to process our feelings. Be patient with those around you. As you begin to appreciate and respect the emotions of others, you will free your mind of unnecessary worry.
It’s also important to try not to take your feelings out on others. We all do it, and those closest to us get hit the worst. If you do, just let people know you have something going on and you need time to work through it. You don’t need to go into detail if you’d rather not share it. Being honest will then help the other person react accordingly rather than defensively.
Sometimes, it can be hard to see past an awful feeling. You may not be able to visualise feeling any different. This is why it’s so important to record the positive emotions as they remind you that your feelings are constantly changing. Celebrating the good feelings is all part of the process.
Looking back on your emotions also helps you see a pattern. You may realise that certain people/places make you feel a certain way, and you can decide what needs changing. You might also see a shift in the ratio of positive to negative feelings.
Are your emotions taking control of you? Is it time to free some space in your mind to think more clearly, be more productive at work, switch off properly when it’s time, sleep better and make more informed choices? Give it a try, and see for yourself.