How to Regulate Your Emotions with Mindfulness

Life has been beyond challenging for most of us the last couple of years as we’ve dealt with a global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. And just when we thought we were all out of the woods and life was back to normal, we now find ourselves facing sky high inflation, the threat of recession, natural disasters, and global unrest. And in addition to everything going on around us in the world, we still have our everyday stressors like finances, work issues, relationship stressors, and concerns for our family. Needless to say, these events and life stressors can trigger some pretty strong emotions in us.

We never want to fully deny our emotions. Feeling them is how we process the events of our lives. But there comes the point where we need to figure out a way to move through the emotions and get safely to the other side. One of the most effective ways to do this is through mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness & How Can It Help?

Mindfulness is a simple, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. It is a powerful way to connect with our bodies and emotions, but in a higher state of awareness.

Mindfulness helps us regulate our emotions by putting us in a calm and relaxed state of presence. From here we can have a more mature and sensible point of view of the events in our lives. 

Second, when practiced regularly, mindfulness can help us develop skills that promote emotional maturity and self-regulation. These skills include self-awareness and attentional control.

Mindfulness can increase the time between trigger and response. In this way, mindfulness acts a bit like an advanced warning system, alerting us to a potential ugly scene, giving us time to engage in emotional self-monitoring. This gives us the opportunity to choose our emotional response very, very carefully.

And finally, mindfulness can reduce the time we spend in an emotional trigger. Brain scientists call this the "refractory period", which is the amount of time it takes to get from a place of emotional overwhelm back to a place of equilibrium in our mind and body.

Getting Started with Mindfulness

There are many online resources for getting started with a mindfulness meditation practice. Spend some time searching Google and exploring YouTube for some helpful sites and videos.

Here are a few tips we give our clients at Bozeman Counseling Center who are wanting to utilize mindfulness to help regulate their emotions.

1) Notice and Name: when feeling overwhelmed with emotion, or even throughout your day, take a minute to tune into your body and emotional state. "Notice" what you are feeling and "Name" that feeling. When we pause just for a few moments and notice and name, we are helping the brain engage our pre-frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that can help regulate our emotions.

2) After noticing and naming what you are feeling, take a moment to tune into your body. Where are you feeling tight, tense, or uncomfortable. Is your stomach in knots, is your heart beating fast, are you feeling hot?

3) While tuning into your body, take a few deep full breaths and breathe into the part of your body that is feeling off balance. The breath is the the strongest built in mechanism that we have as human beings to calm our nervous system and stress response, when we are feeling stressed and emotionally overwhelmed.

If you are interested in working privately with someone on regulating your emotions, please reach out to us at Bozeman Counseling Center. We use mindfulness in our practice with clients and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.