A Beginner’s Guide to Mastering Emotions

A beginner’s guide to mastering emotions and a peaceful life with 6 simple SEL activities

16 different facial expressions representing different kinds of emotions

Life is like a circus and in this circus we are constantly fighting storms in the sea of emotions. Time after time when hit with extremes like loss of a loved one, failing at our job interview, winning the lottery etc, we wonder- How can I change this situation that is too overwhelming (good or bad) or is bothering me? How can I lead a happier life?

We can’t control the situation but we can control our reaction. How, you ask? By transforming our own mind. Brain-train starts with learning how to regulate your emotions. ‘Emotional regulation is the ability to control one’s emotions. It involves monitoring our reaction to a difficult or stressful situation, learning constructive reactions, working on visible signs of sadness and looking at the silver lining to stay calm and happy.’ Emotional regulation is a difficult (not impossible) art to master that is absolutely essential to lead a happier, healthier and more meaningful life.

Our life experiences play a big role in our personality development. When we keep acting a certain way for a long time the behaviour gets hardwired in our brain and we continue to behave similarly for the rest of eternity. But it is time to break the chain and build a harmonious relationship with ourselves, others and life through some emotional regulation activities.

How to regulate emotions

1. Know your emotions

We cannot master emotions if we don’t know what emotion we are actually going through. Human emotions are quite complex and to deal with their various manifestations it’s essential to ‘label’ or ‘identify’ the emotion/s we are going through. Identifying emotions also comes with a prerequisite of acceptance of your feelings whether positive or negative without judgement.

Two emoticons representing identifying emotions

2. Put in a Journal

Journaling helps reflect on emotions more deeply and trace them back to the actual episode and identify triggers. Journaling regularly is effective to gain an insight into intense emotions and any sort of disruptive patterns in your behaviour.
[You can also use an array of digital apps to journal your thoughts on-the-go]

Person recording their emotions using a journal in a garden

3. Self-affirmation

We do so many amazing things but due to the fast paced life we forget to give ourselves a much deserved pat on the back. Reminding yourself your strengths is an effective way to be in a better state of mind. Self affirmation might seem bizarre at first, is a proven technique to alleviate stress. You can begin by convincing yourself every morning that you will deal with your emotions in a healthy way today. Use statements like “I am grateful” “I can do this!” “I will be honest in my work and relationships” “I am generous” and feel that magic by mastering emotions!

Women making a heart with her hands representing self love and self affirmation
 Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR from Pexels

4. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness based interventions are the key to mastering emotions. Meditation and other mindfulness practices can help you calm down and gain perspective of the situation.
Begin by trying breathing exercises to calm down your nerves and help ground yourself.
Try these 3 simple steps:

  • Take a deep breath
  • Hold it for 3-5 seconds
  • Repeat a ‘Mantra’. It can be as simple as ‘I am calm’ or ‘I am in control’
A women practicing mindfulness based interventions
  Photo by Retha Ferguson from Pexels

5. Reframe negative thoughts

Priority is to measure the validity of the thought. Recognize your thoughts, ask yourself questions like ‘Is this thought 100% accurate?’, ‘What will I gain from accepting this thought?’ or ‘What will I lose?” This will help get in touch with your feelings and evaluate them. Then reframe, find an alternative positive outcome. Reframing a negative thought helps deal with emotions efficiently. It can be tough when you first start out, but once you crack the code, it will occur naturally.

A bulb in a speech bubble representing reframing negative thoughts

6. Sweat it off

You find yourself on the lower side of the spectrum, when you are feeling emotions like sadness, stress and anxiousness – sweat it off. Exercise has been shown to improve mood by releasing endorphins into the brain. These endorphins reduce pain perception and trigger positive feelings in the body. Exercising regularly also helps you sleep better and build resilience.
[Here are some fitness apps that will help you with your exercise goals]

A woman taking a run at sunset

7. Lean on support from others

Our biggest support system is the people around us. A good friend can really pick us up when we are down and work shoulder to shoulder to make things better. Use this weapon of a meaningful friendship to build a brain circuit that will help you in mastering emotions.

A good talk is especially important when you are new to this realm of emotional regulation, it can help release stress, connect and feel not as alone.
However, trust your judgement and make sure your friends don’t lead you towards unhealthy emotional regulation strategies.

Two friends smiling at the camera and leaning on each other for support
  Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Most importantly accept yourself- for your strengths and beauties as well as your weaknesses and flaws. Once you build the courage to be in your own team, the journey to a richer, happier and healthier life begins. Share what different strategies you use to master your emotions.

Further readings:

Raypole, C. (2020, April 28). How to Become the Boss of Your Emotions. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-control-your-emotions#journal

Morin, A. (2020, February 6). How to Control Your Emotions so Your Emotions Don’t Control You. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/amy-morin/how-to-control-your-emotions-so-your-emotions-dont-control-you.html

Healing Forest. (2020, August 11). Regulating Emotions – Tips from Nature. Retrieved from https://healingforest.org/2020/05/26/regulating-emotions/

Sandford, K. (2020, March 12). 10 Emotional Regulation Skills for a Healthier Mind. Retrieved from https://www.lifehack.org/844538/emotional-regulation

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