Mindfulness has a great many uses and is often prescribed by self-help gurus, doctors, writers and others as a tool anyone can use to improve their mental health.
Often this focusses on the long-term benefits of being more present and aware. At the same time though, mindfulness can also be used like a scalpel to deal with more acute problems. Here we will look at how it can be leveraged for instance to tackle specific emotions as they arise.
Turning Towards Emotions
Normally when we experience negative emotions, we react either by trying to ‘fight them’ or by trying to suppress them. This can be described as almost ‘turning away’ from our emotions to try and deny them their power over us.
Unfortunately, this ultimately tends to result in our becoming more stressed or upset as the emotions bubble under the surface, or as we frustrate ourselves in trying to fight them.
Instead though, mindfulness teaches us to turn towards our emotions. What this means, is that you are going to listen to the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing and then simply acknowledge them. Now you say ‘I am stressed’, ‘I am embarrassed’ or ‘I am upset’. Don’t be ashamed or upset that emotion exists but simply recognize that you are currently in that state.
People get upset sometimes. People get angry sometimes. But if you’re simply aware of your condition, then you can be aware that perhaps the thoughts you’re thinking aren’t completely objective. What’s more, you should keep hold of the knowledge that emotions aren’t permanent. In other words, you’re feeling angry right now and as such your thoughts shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But in a few hours, you will likely feel better and then the world will seem like a brighter place again.
This creates a subtle but powerful shift. No longer is the world a terrible place and thus you are upset, now you are upset and thus the world seems like a terrible place. The difference is that you now know that belief is not true.
What’s more, being aware and accepting of your emotions in this way will allow you to assess them in a kind of ‘debriefing’ and to look at what triggered them, how you dealt with them and what they made you think and do. The more you break down and intellectualize your emotions, the more you will find you gain control over them.