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It is vital to stay in touch with our emotions on a consistent basis through a mindfulness practice to check in on our individual emotional temperature. We certainly are frequently examining our physical body daily through hygiene like brushing our teeth, taking a shower, determining how our stomachs are feeling after a meal and going to our Naturopath or Medical Doctor when needed. So when and how do you check in to see how you are feeling routinely?
Creating a repetitive emotional self-reflection or mindfulness practice of pausing to scan yourself and your day from an emotional perspective and acknowledge your feelings has many advantages. Our feelings and mood states are made up of both thoughts and emotions. The advantage of feeling your feelings rather than burying them or bypassing them is that you can assess and improve your mental health. Ignoring your feelings or compartmentalizing them can provide short term relief so you can process them at a later time but may grow into further anxiety or depression if they build up.
Many psychotherapists recommend focusing on the physical body first and performing a head to feet body scan and sensing for places that you are holding emotions. You may notice patterns in your body’s physical response to emotions. For example, when you start feeling anxious your palms may become sweaty or tingly or the feeling may move you to tap your foot.
When you notice the first physical symptoms of the feeling and your mind is racing you can inset a calming intervention like HeartMath Heart Focused Breathing. You also want to ask the questions: What are or were you thinking or feeling in the moment and during the day? Was there an issue during the day that is still bothering you through a repeated thought pattern? Or are you having some unsettled feeling that you need to check into either in your physical body or your emotional body? At times we may not know exactly how we are feeling or we may know how we are feeling but not the reason why.
Becoming familiar with a broad spectrum of feeling words and states is helpful so you can label the feeling that is surfacing during this process. Once you can identify your feelings from an emotional place and a physical body location from day to day, you’ll start to see the benefits in that you will have less emotional disturbances, according to Simon Rego, PsyD, Chief Psychologist at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. According to Dr. Rego, after a day of frustrations, you’ll be less likely to absolutely emotionally lose it on the unsuspecting person at the grocery store. “Once you become aware of what you’re feeling, it helps create a bit of space to diminish its intensity,” he says. “Now you are observing it rather than being overwhelmed by it.”
Emotional check-ins need to be like physical exercise, to get the most benefit from them, you have to do them regularly. “These [emotional climate monitoring] skills work best if we learn them when our emotions aren’t so intense. Then we can apply them at times that are more [emotionally] challenging,” Rego says. So practice, practice, practice. Rego suggests checking in with yourself once a day to start. “The beginning of the day or around the time you begin your bedtime routine is ideal,” he says. If you can practice just 5 to 10 minutes is enough time to get a quick roundup of your thoughts and emotions.
You can check in during your morning coffee, tea, mindfulness or meditative practice. Make a routine of monitoring both positive and negative emotions. Was there anything in your day that you would have liked to go better and how did you feel about it? Then evaluate if you need to communicate further to clarify a situation with the person you are thinking about the next day. Per Maryanna Klatt, PhD, a professor at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, in the morning practice ask yourself: How am I feeling as I approach the day? What is coming up that I want to be mindful of? How do I feel about it?
If it helps, try taking notes in a journal or on your phone’s note-taking app. The act of writing down feelings and thoughts can give you additional perspective and take the thought patterns out of your head and provide some cognitive and emotional relief.
Individual emotional climate practices can assist you in evaluating if you need to do something about your feelings like talk to someone to resolve an issue or just accept the feelings as they are. For instance, experiencing brief sadness isn’t always a cause for distress. In many cases, your emotional response may make complete sense and feeling the sadness will move it more quickly out of your emotional landscape. You can look to your feelings like “clouds” that when noticed, acknowledged and felt can easily move through you and on their way out of your physical and emotional experience.
Similarly, Dr. Klatt writes, you might feel more anxious and on guard after witnessing a traumatic event, such as a car accident. By simply acknowledging your feelings, you can put some much-needed distance between yourself and the event. Identifying your emotions will also help you see a connection between cause and effect—and allow you to direct your life toward a positive feeling state, Klatt explains. She says that if something is impacting you in a positive way, you want to notice this feeling experience and increase the positive feeling experiences”. As an example, if spending time with a good friend or family member enlivens you up, then that’s a sign you need to spend more time with them. Or if a favorite hobby provides interest, excitement or puts you in the feel good creative zone, then you know what makes you feel great. Therefore, plan to spend more of your time with that person or that activity or hobby.