Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected. More specifically, your thoughts influence your feelings and resulting behaviors. Let’s imagine that you and a friend made plans to see your favorite musical. Ten minutes before the show, your friend calls you and says he or she won’t make it. “What an insensitive moron,” you think. That thought is linked to a feeling or two, such as anger and hurt. What do you do next? Perhaps you ignore your friend’s next three phone calls. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interdependent sequences that will continue to play out, unless we consciously choose the way we want to think, feel, and behave.
Here are five feeling strategies to help you choreograph your own sequences:
1. Open your body up – we hold emotions in various parts of our bodies, such as a clenched jaw if angry or tensed shoulders if anxious. It’s important to know where you specifically hold emotions in your body. Aim as often as you can to have open body language, where your arms are outstretched, your body muscles are relaxed, and your spine is straight. This helps oxygen and energy more freely flow throughout your body, instead of becoming trapped or lodged in your body.
2. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings without judgment – we’ve all been there when we try to deny/push/mask how we really feel in the moment. Everyone is allowed to have his or her own feelings; it’s part of the human experience. Remember that your feelings are a truth, but rarely the entire truth. What we do with our feelings is critical. Emotional intelligence entails having present-moment awareness, which can help you identify your feelings, feel your feelings, understand why you are having them, and proactively problem-solve to tackle the issue(s) at hand.
3. Give yourself a big hug – some feelings are tough! If you are a hugger, why not hug yourself? Touch can be very comforting to help soothe painful feelings. You may gently massage your hands or forearms as a way to self-soothe. Do this with your full attention. You deserve it.
4. Breathe – this strategy cannot be overemphasized. When you breathe from your belly (i.e., diaphragmatic breathing) for 5-10 minutes, you calm your internal physiology, which in turn calms your mind. You may also envision breathing into various parts of your body where you hold different feelings. Perhaps you breathe into that lump in your throat when feeling unconfident. Perhaps you breathe into your heart space if you are experiencing some heartache. Use your breath to give love to yourself.
5. Get creative – some of the most beautiful works of art have been created through re-directing emotions into productive outlets. I do this with poetry. Others do this with music or art or journaling, etc. You have the ability to re-channel your feelings instead of sinking into uncomfortable feelings. When you become skilled at understanding your own feelings and re-directing them into healthy expression forms, you may realize that you have power over your feelings. You have power over your thoughts. And you certainly have power over your actions.