Emotions can be a veritable minefield—they can be our greatest friend or our worst enemy. Some have a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it whilst others like to mark out a comfortable spot in your psyche and settle in for the long haul.
If we are talking about positive emotions such as joy or excitement, we tend to welcome them in with open arms and an open-ended invite. Yet if these emotions fall on the negative side, such as anxiety or anger, they are firmly told their name isn’t on the list and they’re not getting in. The problem with this approach is that it’s impossible to shut out negative emotions yet ride off into the sunset with the positive ones. They just cannot be cherry-picked.
These negative nasties are part of our emotional makeup. You can’t outrun them and you can’t hide from them. Instead of being held hostage at their mercy each time they appear, perhaps a shift in perspective is needed. In trying to understand their purpose and learning how to release them healthily, we can develop a better relationship with them so that they show up as overnight guests instead of moving in for good.
Changing your emotional behavior is never easy, but here’s how to control your emotions.
How to Control Your Emotions
Jill and Sarah are best friends. They do everything together, but they are also very different.
Jill is constantly strung out; the smallest mishap will send her into a state of frustration, stress, and shouting. Everything around her affects her: the traffic, long queues, the mean colleague. Her mood and happiness are directly influenced daily by what is happening around her. Sarah, on the other hand, doesn’t let small things get to her. She decides how she wants to feel and is constantly much happier than Jill.
What is the difference?
Controlling emotions is very much a question of choice. Do you want to, or not? So much has been written about emotions and how to deal with them effectively, yet many people can’t control this area of life. Why? Effectively managing emotions is actually like developing a skill or a habit. It is a way of doing something better, and as humans, we struggle with change the most.
Changing the way you usually do something is hard, and it is even more difficult when it comes to emotions. When we are feeling “emotional,” the last thing we want to do is calm down and try to deal with the situation proactively; we most often want to rant about what is upsetting us.
If we understand a little more about how our emotions work, we are in a much better position to use this information to our advantage. Learning how to control your emotions can be one of the best skills you will ever develop in your life. Your emotions lead to the actions you take and, therefore, create the life you are experiencing now—every part of it.
Our emotional part of the brain, the limbic system, is one of the oldest parts when compared, for example, to our prefrontal cortex, which is our ‘thinking’ part. 
The average person’s emotional part of the brain is over six billion times more active than the prefrontal cortex. Because our emotional part is so old and is an extremely strong part of the brain, it is understandable that it feels like our emotions occasionally control us.
The point is, your emotions will naturally hijack your thinking—this is a given—but there are still ways to deal with this.
To keep things simple, let’s look at what you can do to flip this situation around. Ignoring emotions, suppressing them, or not dealing with them will come back to bite you! Stress and anxiety come from suppressed emotions, so if you think that dealing with your emotions by ignoring them is going to work, you are sorely wrong.
Here are 7 simple steps to control your emotions effectively.
If you are not aware of the times when you are overly emotional or overreacting, how can you try to manage it? It is impossible.
It is of vital importance to understand that emotions are simply energy. Thanks to the late great David Hawkins, MD, Ph.D., we have proof that emotions have measurable energy and can either foster or negate actual cell life. 
If we refuse to deal with them, they find a hiding place deep inside our bodies. Stuffing our feelings down by pretending they don’t exist or lying to ourselves simply prolongs the process.
Instead, when you notice a negative emotion coming in, try to actually sit with it for a while. It is no easy feat and can be incredibly intense initially. Notice which part of your body it’s affecting, and then name the emotion. In saying out loud, “I’m feeling anxious right now,” it can loosen its grip.
2. Discover the ‘Why’ of Your Emotions
Once you have identified how you are feeling, you want to discover why you are feeling it. What is causing this feeling inside you? Of course, there could be a million reasons, and to find out you have to ask yourself, like you would a friend, “What is wrong? What is causing me to feel this way?” Your mind will always look for an answer.
Most of the time, simply the way you are thinking about the situation is causing you to feel the way you do. Another huge reason why we feel negative emotions is because our values are not present at that moment or are being respected.
Remember: discover the ‘why.’
3. Ask Yourself, “What Is the Solution?”
Once you have discovered why, what can you do to take back control? Sometimes, you might need to change your thoughts about the situation.
The next time you’re feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, try to reframe the situation and look at it from a slightly different angle. You’ll likely end up in a better psychological place if you do. Reframing is one skill that can truly change the way you think. 
Your thoughts lead directly to your feelings; so if you are feeling bad, you most likely have a negative thought making you feel that way. If you consider the situation from a different angle, you will begin to feel better immediately. What you focus on expands!
Sometimes, understanding why you feel a certain way at the time, can cause your emotions diminish. This is because understanding always leads to calmness.
4. Choose How You Want to React
This is the hardest part. The way we react and manage our emotions is a habit. Haven’t you noticed that people who get stressed out about everything, literally freak out at nothing? You almost feel sorry for them. They have created a habit of associating a situation they don’t like with “freaking out.” Their emotions have hijacked them.
Learning to listen to your emotions, to identify, understand, and then choose them, isn’t something that you decide to practice twice a week at lunchtime. No, it takes continuous effort and discipline to build this essential skill.
5. Ritualize Your Mornings
Have you ever gone to bed angry and woken up with that same anger burning a hole in your pillow? Or simply just woken up on the wrong side of the bed, feeling wretched for no apparent reason. The first few moments of the morning can be one of the most powerful. Whatever mood we climb out of bed in tends to cling to us all day. That’s why it can be incredibly powerful to have a morning ritual to cleanse the emotional palette. Effective rituals vary, but the following can be highly effective:
Putting our thoughts out of our heads and onto paper can be incredibly cathartic, and stream-of-consciousness writing can be one of the most powerful ways to journal.
Simply write out your thoughts as they stream through you, without review or judgment. Even if you have nothing to say, simply write “I have nothing to say” over and over again until another insight appears or simply until you fill the page. Once you’ve filled in your set number of pages, don’t review. This isn’t a diary, it’s a tool to purge negative emotions. 
Quieting the mind through the breath is simply one of the most powerful tools we have to release negative emotion, yet it is no easy endeavor.
Find a quiet spot and sit quietly for ten to fifteen minutes, focusing on your breath or on a mantra (I find inhaling “Let” and exhaling “Go” to be simple yet effective). When we create a meditation practice, our monkey mind learns to settle and we become more in tune with ourselves, in turn leading to mindfulness.
Being mindful creates more space between our thoughts so that we can be aware when negative emotions creep in, giving us the opportunity to nip it in the bud before the emotion snowballs and takes over your day or your week.
6. Massage for Relaxation and to Empty the Mind.
Have you ever intensely worked on something for a long period and then subconsciously reached up to massage the back of your neck? Massage decreases anxiety and pressure and revives both the body and the mind, providing more clarity and focus. 
Because it benefits both the mind and the body, it promotes a feeling of well-being, thus improving a bad mood.
7. Exorcise Through Exercise
As human beings, we are designed to move. Exercise is good for us not only from a physical perspective but from a mental perspective. The hormones released when our hearts are pumping and our bodies are moving can change our mindset.
Some researchers suspect exercise alleviates chronic depression by increasing serotonin (the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (which support the growth of neurons). Another theory suggests exercise helps by normalizing sleep, which is known to have protective effects on the brain.
The very act of going for a walk, a run, or attacking a set of weights forces the mind to focus on the task at hand. Next time something enrages you, instead of reaching for a bag of chips or numbing out in front of the TV, get physical. Even if it means dancing around your room like a maniac to some gangster rap music (a personal favorite of mine), you’ll feel a heck of a lot better and possibly have a laugh at just how ridiculous you look.
Do you control emotions, or do they control and direct you?
It’s not easy, and that is why so many people make no effort or give up. But once you can control your emotions, life changes for you in more ways than you ever dreamed possible. Not only will you feel way more empowered and in control in life, but you will be happier and much healthier as you won’t be stressed or weighed down so often.
Don't have time for the full article? Read this.
Controlling emotions is very much a question of choice. Do you want to, or not?
Effectively managing emotions is like developing a skill or a habit.
To control your emotions effectively, you need self-awareness. Then discover the ‘why’ of your emotions and ask yourself ‘what is the solution?’ You should choose how you want to react to your emotions.
Some nice ways to mange your emotions include ritualizing your mornings, massaging for relaxation and exocising through exercise.
Controlling emotions is not easy, and that is why so many people either make no effort or give up. But once you can control your emotions, life changes for you in more ways than you ever dreamed possible.
Featured photo credit: Christian Fregnan via unsplash.com
|||^||Physiopedia: Limbic System|
|||^||Forbes: Emotions Have Energy: What Energy Are You Sending?|
|||^||Psychology Today: One Tool That Can Change the Way You Think|
|||^||University of Rochester Medical Center: Journaling for Mental Health|
|||^||National Library of Medicine: Massage Therapy for Psychiatric Disorders|
|||^||American Psychological Association: The exercise effect|