Our emotions drive our lives. Our decisions, big and small, are influenced by our emotions — no matter how much we try to think critically and from a place of logic. To build a life of peace and purpose, it is important that the heart and the head work together.
On Having Peace by Mastering Your Emotions
Emotions, however, are not always trustworthy. Though some, like the fight or flight response, is designed to keep us safe, misunderstanding the root of our emotions or the inability to master them can get in the way of a life filled with the kind of purpose we all strive for.
So how do you master your emotions and create a fulfilling, peaceful life?
1. Identifying Your Emotions
When we’re kids, we learn all about the world outside. We learn about numbers, colors, animals, and everything under the sky. We also learn about the world within — we learn about our bodies and feelings. We teach children to identify their feelings to help them understand their needs.
As we mature, our emotions become more complex. Life experience shapes us. We change, and we evolve. Our emotions and how they drive us to evolve alongside us. Identifying your emotions should be a lifelong practice.
2. Decrypting Your Emotions
Once you know what you’re feeling, it’s time to organize. Your emotions frequently lead to specific behaviors. Bad day at the office? You might spend the evening with a glass of wine and your favorite TV show. Stressed about all the housework that needs doing? Maybe you shove that out of your mind and wait for a better day to tackle it.
The real goal of this phase is to decrypt what your emotions mean and what they mean to your behavior. It’s close to your birthday and you haven’t gotten a card in the mail yet, and this upsets you. Think about the why of everything. Why does it upset you? What are you afraid of? Does the fact that you haven’t gotten a card yet mean you’re afraid you won’t get a card? That people forgot your birthday? That you’re forgettable, or no one likes you enough to wish you a happy birthday? Is that a rational fear?
It’s important to have awareness of your feelings and the ability to determine:
- Why you feel negative emotions
- Whether those negative emotions are genuine and based on realistic fears
- Whether those feelings are worth spending time handling or soothing yourself
Having that awareness means you can move onto the third step, which has the biggest impact on your life.
3. Deal With Your Emotions
So you know how you’re feeling, and you know how it impacts you. Now you need to know what to do with all of those feelings. Negativity, as well as unhelpful coping techniques, can put your life in turmoil and ruin your ability to accomplish your goals or feel good about yourself. How do you get rid of that negativity?
The answer is good coping mechanisms. These are the things that foster positive change and progress in your life. For example, sometimes taking a break allows you to clear your headspace. You can do things like meditate or listen to music to alter your mood. For some, taking a break is less about clearing headspace and more about avoidance. If your break makes the pressure of the things unfinished worse (even if it provides distraction in the moment), it might not be the correct coping mechanism for you.
Some other methods for getting rid of negative thoughts?
- Meditate, or practice breathing exercises
- Use music, art, books, or movies to adjust your mood
- Athletic activity
- Physical touch — hugs can help
- Work towards resolving the source of your stress
- Shift your thinking from negative to positives.
True mastery comes from practice-changing how you react to (and eventually controlling) your emotions takes a lot of time and work. The end result, though, is a peaceful and happier life.