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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

How to Express Your Feelings in a Healthy Way

How to Express Your Feelings in a Healthy Way

Even though feelings—also known as emotions—are the splashes of colors that make our rather boring daily routine seem compelling, the truth is that most people are emotionally challenged. Some people do not know how to express their feelings. Expressing wrong emotions can leave us drained, confused, and alone.

It can be very easy to get caught up in your feelings, especially when you lack the proper way to express them. Most people cannot adequately describe a feeling or their emotions, let alone express it healthily. Moreover, so many contradictions are out there about how one should express their mental and emotional thoughts.

Some studies say be blunt—say it the way you feel and blah, blah, blah. Others say be constructive, thoughtful, mindful, and careful how you react. The truth is that we never take the time to analyze the type of emotions we are feeling before we express them. In other words, we do not associate the right energy to the emotions because we have generalized it.

For example, there is a deep meaning to emotional sadness. When you are sad, it is understandable that you are not happy or things are not working the way you expected. However, sadness has depth—like disappointment, gloomy, miserable, hopeless, frustrated, or depressed.

These are emotions linked to sadness, but we only express being sad for all of them. Yes, I agree that it can be a challenge expressing how you feel in the heat of the moment. But if you can express the right emotion, then you will be better for it.

This Year Has Been a Trying Year

It started with the pandemic, the protest, and many more worries that families suffered throughout the nation. Humans feel a mix of emotions, and quite frankly, 90 percent of people do not know how to express their feelings. The outspoken ones say it as it is, while the shy ones lockup their feelings, struggle, and cope with it in dangerous ways. These bottled up feelings make them stressed, depressed, and a ticking time bomb.

Despite the madness and repercussions associated with how we express our feelings, aptly expressing them is healing to an aggrieved soul.

Asides from bottling up, other unhealthy ways people try to expel their feelings are:

  • Ignoring, avoiding, or suppressing the emotion
  • Venting the feeling in a wrong manner like a father yelling or resulting in domestic abuse and violence
  • Using food, drugs, alcohol, and sex to douse the impact of the emotions
  • Resulting in crime or others as a way of venting the emotion
  • Being too chatty and losing self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Beating yourself up even when you are the victim
  • Using the situation around you to judge and suppress the emotions.

Expressing your feelings

Did you know that over 3000 words describe various emotions in the English vocabulary? How many do you recognize? And can you use them correctly?

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Emotions are part of life. Without them, life as we know it will be boring and incomplete. However, relying on the methods above is unhealthy and dangerous for anyone. You deserve to express your feelings for many reasons.

Ways to Build Your Emotional Intelligence to Better Express Your Feelings

To be able to better express your feelings, you first have to improve your emotional intelligence. Here are 10 ways you can build your emotional intelligence to enable you to express your feelings better.

1. Feel the Feelings

Growing up, people say “boys do not cry.” They had to be strong and resilient and had no right to show emotions. These are societal and family upbringings that are affecting a bunch of individuals today. Never, ever bottle up your feelings. Instead, acknowledge and accept them. Try to understand the triggers and come up with appropriate measures to express them healthily.

2. Accept the Changes

Our inability to healthily express feelings stems from not wanting to accept the changes around us. When people experience a difference in their surroundings, they do two things.

First, seme people immediately creates this barrier around themselves to shut off the happenings. This means they fail to understand or rather do not see why things should happen without their consent or according to their plan.

For example, a young girl has lived part of her life alone with her father. Suddenly, he starts to date and talks about marriage with a love interest. The girl feels intimidated, abandoned, and not loved. These are all feelings that could be discussed, but she lets them build-up, and it turns to resentment and running away from home or even doing drugs.

The other possible reaction is that she expresses her feeling to her dad, and he lovingly explains that nobody will ever take her place in his heart. She understands her role, builds a relationship with a new mom, and is comfortable in her space.

Emotionally intelligent people accept the changes around them. They understand that purpose and do not let their feelings define who they are or can be. Moreover, they seek value in how feelings play out than how it plays them.

3. Grow From Constructive Criticism

People who cannot accept constructive criticism cannot express their feelings healthily. When you feel you are right and everyone should play your script, then there is a problem. Receiving constructive criticism means being willing to hear feedback about a behavioral expression from those who see you do it.

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For example, your boss gets you angry at the office, which happens often. You have never owned up to discuss with them what the problem is. You go on a lunch break with your friend, vent out your frustration, anger, and conclude you are quitting the job.

Your friend disagrees and explains the reasons that might have warranted the boss’ reaction, but you will not hear it because they do not conform to your ideas. You are defending and insisting on your way that is not growing from constructive criticism. You have to learn to understand the other person’s point of view before you go haywire.

4. Talk to Yourself About It

When people have difficulty expressing their emotions, many times, the options are either to speak to a shrink or register at a center where they have others like they. This is a mistake. If you do not know what you are feeling, how then do you wish you describe it to another?

Furthermore, you are told how you feel instead of discovering it yourself. So, when you feel an emotion building up, find a quiet spot, and discuss them.

5. Write Them Down

Journaling is an excellent way to understand and eventually express your emotions. However, there is a catch here—you need to build a concrete emotional vocabulary so that you can with pinpoint accuracy describe that emotion.

To jot down your feelings, try to do so as precisely as possible. Remember the reason for the emotion, how you felt, and how you handle it afterward. Do not express negative emotions. Rather, view the thoughts from a positive angle and work your way up.

6. Be Mindful

Well, this works better with positive feelings as you can control the excitement and is conscious about the surrounding. For negative feelings and hurts, it is a different ball game. Mindfulness is the process of owning the emotions and knowing when they start to build up.

For example, what state of mind were you in when it happened? Were you stressed, happy, or something else? The ability to be mindful can help you channel thoughts and feeling healthily and properly.

7. Stop Seeking Validation for Your Emotions

We all do that at some point. However, if you are right in the way you choose to express your emotions, society will not judge you. If you are wrong, accept it and stop looking for supporters to join your bandwagon.

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Seeking validation is a sign that you do not know how to express your feelings. People who seek to validate their emotions could have troubled past or suffered trauma and feel the need for reassurance at every step of the way. It is your emotions, so feel free to experience them. Only then will you understand and express it healthily.

8. Set Healthy Boundaries

Knowing when to say “no” is crucial in expressing your emotions. Never feel obligated to do something for another. Know your limits, what you can take, and work from there. Boundaries keep you in check and enable you to genuinely understand the whys around you.

For example, if you are a very playful person that goes around hugging people and being all touchy and stuff, you cannot get angry when the feeling is reciprocated. If you need to draw a line from the inception, do it and stick to it.

9. Stop Overthinking

Isn’t it funny how we never overthink positive feelings but can write a 2 hours movie script about negative thoughts and feelings? You need to stop that now. Overthinking kills, exaggerates, and blows things out of proportion. Overthinking is the quickest way to get wrapped up in a mentally insecure place. Do not do it, and avoid it.

10. Do Not Validate or Give In

At some point in life, everyone has been in a weird situation—how we wriggled our way out says a lot. Did you give in or justify the mistake of others? If emotion is building up contrary to your values, morals, or beliefs, step away from the situation than become absorbed in it.

Ways to Express Your Feelings Healthily

Now that we have understood our feelings, it is time to express them appropriately. The above steps build your emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, control, and healthily express emotion or feelings via the proper channel. It is also growing and improving in how you handle your feelings so that you are not hurt and do not hurt those that love you.

1. Journaling

We mentioned it as a way to build a strong emotionally intelligent mindset. This is a perfect way to express your feelings (any kind of emotion), too. Journaling works incredibly in helping you expel thoughts and feelings raging in your head and heart.

There is no proper way of doing it. Have a book or diary and imprint emotions you observed during the day in whatever manner you felt them. This method allows you to build emotional awareness and devise ways of controlling and overcoming feelings that drive you crazy.

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2. Anger

This is a common feeling that defiles a proper way of expression. However, people that experience this emotion want to hit, punch, or get physical. Anger is like an energy force that wants to come out.

If you are angry at the office, go to the restroom and splash cold water on your face to calm down. If you are at home, hit the gym and punch the feeling away. When you are calm and happy, discuss the trigger, and try to avoid such situations in the future.

3. Fear

This is overwhelming energy that seeks to break our resolves and drown us in confusion. The emotion associated with fear is that of failure, low self-esteem, and self-confidence. It causes you to overthink and ask too many questions.

If you are in this state of mind, share how you feel with one person you trust. If you live far away from home, call your parents, sibling, an aunt, just talk to someone that will not judge or criticize you.

4. Pain and sorrow

The healthiest way is to scream, cry, shout, yell, just vent, and let it go. Crying seems to work well with unpleasant emotions. Whether you choose to cry alone or in front of everyone, you will feel better when the tears stop flowing.

Our bodies are always giving us ways to deal with the emotion, listen to your body, and forget about what society says. Your happiness lies in how healthy you express your emotions.

Final Thoughts

Remember this: our feelings are the emotions that are part of us, and we cannot do without them. However, how we choose to express them will determine if we are tethered or free.

When we face, acknowledge, deal with, and healthily express how we feel, it is for a greater good. It is for you and nobody else. Learn to foster the habit of expressing your feelings healthily as you continue to grow today.

More on How to Express Your Feelings

Featured photo credit: Gabriel Benois via unsplash.com

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Published on April 9, 2021

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

What Is Mindfulness And How It Helps Your Mental Wellness

Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword in the health and wellness industry. However, few people truly understand what it is. My aim here is to teach you what mindfulness is and how it helps your mental wellness. By the end of this article, you will understand the meaning and benefits of mindfulness. Additionally, you will develop the ability to integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is approximately 2500-years-old with deep roots in the Eastern world as a spiritual, ethical, and philosophical practice. These roots are intimately connected to the Buddhist practice of vipassana meditation.[1]

Mindfulness continues to be practiced as a cultural and spiritual tradition in many parts of the world. For Buddhists, it offers an ethical and moral code of conduct. For many, mindfulness is more than a practice—it is a way of life.[2]

However, mindfulness has evolved in the Western world and has become a non-religious practice for wellbeing. The evolution began around 1979 when Jon-Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).[3] Since then, mindfulness has emerged in the health and wellness industry and continues to evolve.

It is important to recognize the distinctions between mindfulness as a clinical practice and mindfulness as a cultural practice. The focus of this article is on the clinical model of mindfulness developed in the West.

Many researchers have integrated aspects of Buddhism and mindfulness into clinical psychiatry and psychology. Buddhism has helped to inform many mental health theories and therapies. However, the ethical and moral codes of conduct that drive Buddhist practices are no longer integrated into the mindfulness practices most-often taught in the Western world.[4] Therefore, Western mindfulness is often a non-spiritual practice for mental wellness.

Mindfulness aims to cultivate present moment awareness both within the body and the environment.[5] However, awareness is only the first element. Non-judgmental acceptance of the present moment is essential for true mindfulness to occur. Thoughts and feelings are explored without an emphasis on right, wrong, past, or future.

The only necessary condition for mindfulness to occur is non-judgmental acceptance and awareness of the present moment. Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. It does not need to be complex even though structured programs exist.

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How Mindfulness Helps Your Mental Wellness

Along with MBSR, other models have been developed and adapted for use by clinical counselors, psychologists, and therapists. These include Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).[6]

Structured models of mindfulness allow researchers to study its benefits. Research has uncovered an abundance of benefits including mental, physical, cognitive, and spiritual. The following is not a comprehensive list of all its benefits, but it will begin to uncover how mindfulness helps mental wellness.

Benefits on Your Mental Health

Practicing mindfulness can have positive impacts on mental health. It has been positively associated with desirable traits, such as:

  • Autonomy
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Competence
  • Empathy
  • Optimism

Mindfulness helps to improve self-esteem, increase life satisfaction and enhance self-compassion. It is associated with pleasant emotions and mood. Overall, people who practice this appear to be happier and experience more joy in life. Not only does it increase happiness but it may also ward off negativity.

Mindfulness helps individuals to let go of negative thoughts and regulate emotions. For example, it may decrease fear, stress, worry, anger, and anxiety. It also helps to reduce rumination, which is a repetition of negative thoughts in the mind.

MBSR was originally designed to treat chronic pain. It has since evolved to include the treatment of anxiety and depression. Clinical studies have shown that MBSR is linked with:

  • Reduced chronic pain and improved quality of life
  • Decreased risk of relapse in depression
  • Reduced negative thinking in anxiety disorders
  • Prevention of major depressive disorders
  • Reducing substance-use frequency and cravings

However, more research is needed before these clinical studies can be generalized to the public. Nevertheless, there is promising evidence to suggest MBSR may be beneficial for mental health.[7]

Benefits on Your Cognitive Health

Mindfulness has many important benefits for cognitive health as well. In a study of college students, mindfulness increased performance in attention and persistence. Another study found that individuals who practice it have increased cognitive flexibility. A brain scan found increased thickness in areas of the brain related to attention, interception, and sensory processing.[8]

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To explain this another way, practicing mindfulness can improve the ability to shift from one task to the next, increase attention span and increase awareness of bodily sensations and the environment. Therefore, it has the potential to literally change your brain for the better.

Harvard researchers are also interested in studies of the brain and mindfulness. One researcher studied how brain changes are sustained even when individuals are not engaged in mindfulness. Their research suggests that its benefits extend beyond the moments of mindfulness.[9]

Another study found that the benefits of mindfulness training lasted up to five years. In this particular case, individuals participating in mindfulness activities showed increased attention-span. Mindfulness has also been shown to increase problem-solving and decrease mind wandering.[10]

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness can be practiced in many different ways. However, most practices include these elements:

  • An object to focus awareness on (breath, body, thoughts, sounds)
  • Awareness of the present moment
  • Openness to experience whatever comes up
  • Acceptance that the mind will wander
  • The intention to return awareness to the object of focus whenever the mind wanders

A practice that encompasses these elements is typically called mindfulness meditation. Most mindfulness meditations will be practiced between 5 to 50 minutes, per day.[11]

There is truly no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. Most mindfulness meditations are done seated with an object of focus related to the breath, body, thoughts, emotions, or sounds. However, daily activities such as walking or eating can be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation, as long as the aforementioned elements are in place.

Four Mindfulness Meditations and Their Benefits

Not all forms of mindfulness are created equal. Each practice has unique goals, structure, and benefits. The following four mindfulness meditations are linked with improved mental wellness related to vitality, happiness, and attention.

The results come from a study designed to explore the benefits of these four practices. All of these stem from traditional Buddhist practices.[12]

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1. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness is a form of meditation that focuses on sending love and compassion to others. It may begin with kindness for the self and extend outward towards close family and friends, communities, nations, and the world. Loving-kindness may even involve sending love and compassion towards enemies.

The study found that eight-weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of closeness to others. However, it did not reduce negative feelings towards enemies. Additionally, one week of loving-kindness mixed with compassion training increased the amount of positive feelings participants experienced.[13]

2. Breathing Meditation

Breathing meditation is a practice where the focus remains on the breath. Whenever the mind begins to wander, the attention is brought back to the breath.

In many different mindfulness and yoga practices, specific breathing (pranayama) practices are taught. However, for beginners, simple diaphragmatic breathing that focuses on each inhale and exhale is sufficient.

The effects of breathing meditation relate to attention. Breathing meditation is linked to changes in the way information is processed. Buddhist monks who practiced breathing meditation were able to process a greater amount of information than monks who practiced compassion meditation.

3. Body Scan Meditation

A body scan is as simple as it sounds. Attention is brought to each part of the body. Participants can choose to start from the top of the head or the bottom of the feet. It can be helpful to imagine a warmth or a color spreading from one body part to the next as each part begins to relax.

When body scan and breathing are combined, there are many benefits. Interoceptive sensitivity is the mind’s ability to focus on bodily cues. It is strengthened by body scanning. Body scanning also helps with attention and focus.[14]

4. Observing Thoughts Meditation

In observing thoughts meditation, the focus is on the thoughts. This is an opportunity to practice non-judgmental observation. It is also a practice of non-attachment.

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Within the study, participants practiced structured observation of thoughts. First, they brought their attention to their thoughts and labeled them within several categories: past, present, future, self, or others. Then, they practiced observing their thoughts without an emotional reaction.[15]

The benefits of this practice were robust. First, participants showed great improvement in the ability to observe their thoughts without judgment. Second, the practice greatly reduced rumination. As a result, participants had fewer emotional reactions to their thoughts and developed greater self-awareness around their thinking patterns.

In summary, there are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. The choice may be determined by the benefits each practice offers. For example, body scanning can increase bodily awareness. Thought-observation can increase self-awareness and decrease rumination. Regardless, every practice may increase positivity, energy, and focus.[16]

Considerations Before You Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is still a relatively new concept in clinical research. Critics worry that its benefits have been overstated. There is also concern that the Western world has changed it into something most Buddhists would not recognize.[17]

Mindfulness is a state of mind that builds self-awareness. As a result, it may force individuals to face difficult emotions, memories, and thoughts. In a study of long-term, intense mindfulness practices, 60% of participants reported at least one negative outcome. Some cases are related to depression, anxiety, and psychosis.[18]

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental wellness. Mindfulness offering promising results but there are also risks involved. Working with a therapist may be a great way to start a mindfulness practice while monitoring for risk.

Final Thoughts

Mindfulness is a powerful practice that has deep roots in Buddhism. It is a practice of present-moment awareness, acceptance of the present moment, and non-judgment of thoughts, emotions, or circumstances.

It has many benefits that may increase mental wellness. However, there are also some risks to consider. Overall, you should consider your unique profile before beginning a practice or consider working with a therapist at the start.

More About Practicing Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[2] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[3] Greater Good Magazine: What is Mindfulness?
[4] Sage Journals: Mindfulness in Cultural Context
[5] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[6] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[7] NCBI: Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology
[8] NCBI: Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
[9] The Harvard Gazette: When Science Meets Mindfulness
[10] Greater Good Magazine: The State of Mindfulness Science
[11] NCBI: A Perspective on the Similarities and Differences Between Mindfulness and Relaxation
[12] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[13] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[14] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[15] ResearchGate: Phenomenological Fingerprints of Four Meditations: Differential State Changes in Affect, Mind-Wandering, Meta-Cognition, and Interoception Before and After Daily Practice Across Nine Months of Training
[16] Greater Good Magazine: How to Choose a Type of Mindfulness Meditation
[17] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?
[18] NCBI: Has the Science of Mindfulness Lost Its Mind?

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