What Do Experts Recommend for Healthy Emotions & Attitudes?
Know Potential Pitfalls
In Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, Joan Borysenko outlines three common emotional mind traps:
Denial: Your conscious mind is completely unaware of an emotion, but other people may be reading clues in your behavior. Or, the body may be expressing this blocked energy through illness.
- Over-expression: You are fused with the energy of an emotion, becoming the emotion at the loss of your own identity-for example becoming anger. This can be a dangerous state, as your intellect is not in control of your behavior and you may totally overreact relative to the circumstances.
- Repression: The difficult place of being aware of emotions, but disallowing their expression because of shame, fear, or unworthiness.
Shift Your Emotions
People can avoid these common emotional traps and improve their emotional health, attitudes, and self-esteem by using the BARES model of shifting emotion. You can try these BARES steps:
- Be aware of all your emotions
- Accept them all without judgment
- Recognize that you control your attitudes and behaviors
- Express true emotions
- Shift negative emotions consciously
How do you shift to a more positive emotion?
The Institute of HeartMath has conducted numerous studies that show we can create positive emotional states in ourselves quite quickly and that this positively impacts our physical functioning.
To shift to a more positive state, you need to actually relive a positive feeling and experience it in your body (not just visualize or talk about it). In less than a minute, you can shift an emotion, change what is happening in your body, and become happier and more effective. Your body is capable of responding in just a few breaths.
Sustained positive emotional and affective states have a wide range of benefits, including reduced mental stress; decreased anxiety and depression; improved social functioning; enhanced thinking; increased emotional intelligence; reduced tension and physical stress symptoms; decreased burnout and fatigue; and enhanced physical vitality.
Be Aware of Your Breathing
Emotional state and breathing mirror each other. Paying attention to emotions and breathing can help people identify and alter their responses. Fear, anger, and sorrow are usually the most challenging emotions, and are often reflected in breathing in the following ways:
- Fear: When people feel afraid, they tend to hold their breath, breathe through their chests or, in extreme cases, hyperventilate. This elevates the stress level in the human body and decreases the immune system's ability to fight off illness.
- Sadness: When people feel sad, they inhale forcefully, but exhale weakly (an example of this is expressed as sobbing). This inhibits the ability to breathe freely and to exude energy.
- Anger: When people feel angry, they exhale more forcefully than they inhale. This is a defensive state that renders people unable to receive or accept incoming information or energy.
In the midst of a busy day, a cleansing breath is an effective way to release negative energies and return to a place of balance and equanimity. When people exhale, they breathe out not only carbon dioxide and waste gases, but also mental and emotional toxins, concerns, worries, sorrow, anger, and fear.
When people inhale, in addition to oxygen people also take in life energy, light, love, happiness, and inspiration. Consciously focusing on inhaling, even for a few breaths, can become an exercise of healing and balance.