If you are looking to gain more control over your emotions, the answer to this question is, in part, based on the intensity of the emotions and also your reaction to them. When intense feelings arise, you simply can’t just will them away (and nor would you want to), because they may be communicating something important that you must pay attention to. If the emotion is just a mild irritation, you can likely talk yourself out of feeling it or through distraction. However, if what you’re feeling is deep-seated anger, then clearly you’re going to have to work harder to shift your mood. In either case, it would be crucial to explore what you are feeling and why before choosing a particular response.
If you are wanting to effectively manage your emotions, then you must shift the beliefs that underlie them. For example, if it’s your birthday and your officemates failed to recognize the occasion, you may initially choose to believe that they don’t really care about you, which would lead to you feeling hurt and disappointed. But if you shift your thinking and realize that they may not even know that it’s your birthday, you’ll wind up feeling less sad and rejected. Ultimately, your beliefs create your feelings and your feelings produce your behavior. So if you really want to benefit from your emotions, you’ll have to conduct an extensive examination of your belief system to see which thoughts lead to which affects. It is worth mentioning that the goal isn’t necessarily to control your feelings but instead to effectively handle them as they arise.
In order to effectively handle your emotions and feel healthier in the mind, you must stop trying to avoid feeling bad and instead welcome all of your emotions without judgment. I promise that exploring and allowing yourself to experience your emotions will open your life up for the better. You will no longer look to food, alcohol, shopping, sex, or whatever else you were using for emotional comfort. Happiness does not arise from a magical number on the scale or the fleeting high tied to starving yourself. When you are focused on numbing your emotions rather than processing them and using healthy coping strategies, you stop yourself from living a full and meaningful life.
By familiarizing yourself with your emotions instead of running from them, you will know exactly what it is you need—a new challenge, a divorce, a beach vacation, a good cry, to grieve the loss of a loved one, alone time, etc. The more that you come to accept your feelings, the more you will learn to substitute a new feeling focus in exchange for your old obsession with food (or whatever else you were using as a means to cope). And lastly, remember that you are not going to overcome your addiction or eating disorder simply because you want to. Intent must be paired with consistent action for you to change. Even though everyone deserves to live their best life, only those who work hard to achieve self-insight and personal-growth actually get it.
Here’s an “Emotional Do & Don’t List” to help get you started:
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable with people you trust
- Fully experience every emotion
- Be open and accepting of the range of your emotions
- Be curious rather than judgmental about your emotions
- Use people to comfort you when you feel down, instead of focusing on food
- Let your emotions come and go as they please without fear or worry
- Hang out with people who nourish your soul and are emotionally mature
- Use your feelings along with your judgment to help you reach your goals
- Pretend not to feel anything when you do
- Ignore or minimize painful feelings
- Believe that anyone knows your emotions better than you do
- Let people shame or tease you for having or expressing emotions
- Avoid feelings because they make you uncomfortable
- Be so concerned about hurting other people’s feelings
- Focus on food or alcohol/substances when you’re experiencing a difficult emotion
- Dwell on your feelings after they’ve given you the information you need to make necessary changes in your life.