- Normalise ups and downs of emotions
- Normalise sharing how we feels
- The benefits of our emotions and tuning into our emotions
- The benefits of sharing our emotions
How often do you honestly share your feelings with others? When we are feeling flat, demotivated, disconnected, unhappy or worse anxious or depressed, we are inclined to not share. Why?
According to psychotherapist Russ Harris, we have fallen into the Happiness Trap. We believe that if we are not happy all the time, we are defective. We may not want to burden others, feel embarrassed or fear their judgement. We also prefer to experience pleasant emotions and avoid those more difficult emotions such as disappointment, hurt, remorse, fear. (Harris, 2016)
We face adversity in all aspects of our lives including our relationships, careers, health, and finances, and through adversity, we experience a wide range of emotions. When our tolerance for uncomfortable emotions is low, we tend to avoid the emotions and the situations. When we avoid these unpleasant emotions, we lose an opportunity to grow emotionally and develop skills to cope with challenges in life.
Avoidance of unpleasant emotions may take the form of destructive behaviours such as procrastination, social isolation, over-eating, increasing our drug and alcohol use. When we suppress emotions, we find unpleasant, their intensity increases, and we may unleash when least expected. Emotional avoidance has also been found to have poor health consequences for us including blood pressure, memory deterioration, aggression, depression, and anxiety. (Cousins, 2018)
When addressed there are significant benefits. For example, the tension in our relationship can enhance our bond with our partner. When we care for a loved one, it can be difficult to see our loved one unwell, but studies have found that carers received feelings of satisfaction and purpose when caring for their loved one. When we experience loss such as a job, we may find our identity is connected to our career. This can be difficult to overcome but also presents time to consider how our strengths and qualities can be directed in new ways, thereby creating new opportunities that are fulfilling.
By living full lives, we are enriched through adversity and achievements, experiencing an array of emotions. It’s Ok to feel the range of emotions we experience, we all do.
Tuning into our emotions is vital, because they are signals telling us how we may respond to situations that arise. Susan David, author of “Emotional Agility” emphasises the benefits of labelling your emotion using three words to describe how you feel. This broadens our emotional vocabulary and increases the depth of our understanding of what we are feeling. The purpose is to learn from the more accurately labelled feelings. Instead of labelling our feeling as stress from workload, we may find there are feelings of resentment, disappointment, and sadness. Using this clarity, we can identify the issues we need to address productively. (David, 2017)
A University of California study found that labelling the emotion reduces brain activity in our Amygdala, which is the part of our brain that works to protect us from danger, responding with fight, flight, or freeze. By reducing our Amygdala activity, our brain can pause before we respond.
Talking about your feelings is a powerful strategy and can be the first step we take to ask for help. Talking helps us name our feelings, share how these feelings manifest and consider the possible causes. We could do this through counselling, talking to our doctor, sharing how we feel with a friend or family member. When we share what we have been holding on to, we feel a sense of relief, we reduce the burden and the weight of our problem and may be able to gain clarity on what will help us.
In summary, facing into emotions that feel unpleasant is an opportunity to develop emotional self- awareness and manage our responses to life productively. The takeaway today is that talking it out greatly benefits our mental health and overall wellbeing. If you need more encouragement, take a look at the links below to hear from others who talk about the benefits they experienced sharing their feelings.
Be.Bendigo Small Business members can reach out to Sharmi Cantwell, Mental Health Consultant partnering with our local small business community. Sharmi is available for no cost individual wellbeing coaching, informal team conversations and workshops.
References for the article