We often forget to understand, comprehend, and manage the emotions that may be affecting us at any given moment. As a result, we choose to overlook them or simply refuse to work on them and move on. This can complicate the situations that arise or affect us, as well as our emotional stability. Knowing how to give them the importance they deserve will help us become emotionally stronger in an effective way.
Emotions are affective reactions that all human beings exhibit as a consequence of circumstances or situations experienced. From a very early age, we are taught to name basic emotions: joy, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, and love, among others. But at times, we are not taught how to understand, manage and comprehend them and to be aware that they are always present and will always be present throughout our lives and development as humans. Our emotions will have a direct effect on our behavior, whether it is socially acceptable or problematic. Emotional management can be developed from the moment we are born, through social learning, and individually, through our life experiences, reinforcements, and consequences. We also learn to either repress them or not and whether or not to let them affect our lifestyle or mental health. Becoming aware of our emotions is a step towards being able to manage them assertively and effectively. We must validate them in order to give them the importance they deserve.
We may sometimes think that emotions can be classified as either “good” or “bad,” conflating them with positive and negative emotions. Keep in mind that no emotion is bad or negative, but we can get negative effects from our emotions due to the consequences they have on our behavior, which can be socially problematic or “negative”, affecting ourselves or others.
Emotions like anger, fear, or sadness have far more intense and unpleasant emotional consequences. In contrast, emotions such as joy, love, and surprise evoke positive and satisfactory reactions.
In order for you to begin learning how to become aware of your emotions, follow these simple and easy-to-remember steps:
- The first step is to know and name what we feel. This is extremely important if we want to start becoming aware of our emotions. We need to be able to say, I feel sad, I feel happy, or I feel afraid.
- The second step is to understand and comprehend that every emotion we experience is important: validate your emotions. It is important to know how you feel and what you feel.
- Learn strategies to manage your emotions. There are several strategies to manage them: guided relaxation, mindfulness, imagery, listening to relaxing nature sounds (or others), setting the atmosphere of your environment with pleasant scents, writing down what you feel, talking to another person, and taking a break (time out), among others. Each person adopts the strategy that best suits their situation.
- Make sure you can talk to a mental health professional and vent your feelings.
- Understand that you are an emotional human being and that you are capable of handling your feelings. It will sometimes be easier, while at other times, it will be slightly more complicated. But remember that you ARE CAPABLE.
- Don’t judge yourself if at some point you can’t control your emotions. Seek help and take your time. We are emotional human beings. We are not perfect.
Let’s stay aware of our changes, emotions, and the effects that each of these have on our lives in order to experience and adopt a better lifestyle. Our mental health is highly dependent on our emotional stability and regulation. Striking a balance allows us to continuously flow and mature throughout each stage of our lives. Take care of your physical and mental health and nourish the emotions that can generate pleasant and positive reactions. Create the perfect balance.
Emotions are and will continue to be an essential part of human development and growth. We experience emotions from the moment we are born. In our infancy, crying as a nonverbal mode of communication can produce reactions in our caregivers, who may interpret it as sadness, hunger, or discomfort. It then becomes a form of expression to obtain what we want. As we grow up, we learn the importance of emotions in our own lives. We can learn how to consciously regulate and validate them. If you are unable to achieve this on your own, it is extremely important that you seek professional help, so you can adopt the necessary strategies to help you improve your mental health.
Dr. Vernice Hernández Gómez, author of this article, is a clinical psychologist and couples and family therapist at Albizu University in San Juan, Puerto Rico.