Own­ing Your Feels Makes You Hap­pier

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - MIND HEALTH - BY StaceY cOlinO

You know stress. Who doesn’t? You also know it will prob­a­bly pass – right af­ter you meet that loom­ing dead­line. Ex­cept it doesn’t al­ways fade, and you re­main tense and clenched. Why? Per­haps be­cause you’re not ac­tu­ally stressed. Turns out, big, well-known emo­tions can dis­guise a host of more nu­anced feels. Stuff like stress can be the tip of an emo­tional ice­berg, with a whole lot more go­ing on down be­low. For ex­am­ple, per­haps it wasn’t the dead­line fraz­zling you – it was the fact that your boss al­ways sub­tly un­der­mines you. Re­search shows that ac­knowl­edg­ing and ad­dress­ing these buried feel­ings can lead to ‘bet­ter psy­cho­log­i­cal health, ca­reer suc­cess and mean­ing in life’, says psy­chol­o­gist Su­san David, au­thor of Emo­tional Agility – and peo­ple who don’t do so are at greater risk for men­tal­health woes such as anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

Ready to dig deep and reap ma­jor ben­e­fits? Wel­come to COSMO’s crash course on tap­ping into your feels. It’s time to get all emo!

1 Ex­pand Your Vo­cab

‘If you don’t know what emo­tion you’re deal­ing with, you can’t ex­press it con­struc­tively,’ says psy­chol­o­gist Tony Fer­retti. To that end, write down five pos­i­tive feel­ings (e.g. ex­cite­ment, joy, pas­sion, sat­is­fac­tion, hope) and five neg­a­tive ones (anx­i­ety, fear, guilt, anger, frus­tra­tion) on in­dex cards. Jot down the ac­tual def­i­ni­tions on the back of each card, and feel zero shame if you have to con­sult a dic­tio­nary. Each day, choose one card and try to no­tice when you or some­one else is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing that sen­sa­tion. Chances are it will crop up: we all ex­pe­ri­ence 10 to 15 emo­tions per day, says Fer­retti. No­tice how var­i­ous feel­ings af­fect your body. Are you sweat­ing? Do you feel buoy­ant? Keep it up un­til you can ID your emo­tions as soon as they sur­face.

2 Look Closer

Now that you have more words to work with, the next time you feel a re­ally in­tense emo­tion, try to un­pack it, says David. What’s be­neath this feel­ing? Can you name two other emo­tions you’re also sens­ing?

Say you’re mad that bae waits two hours be­fore tex­ting you back. A lit­tle more in­ves­ti­gat­ing might re­veal that you’re anx­ious about the strength of your bond af­ter be­ing burned by your last BF. Don’t talk your­self out of this – in­stead, sit with it for a bit. ‘Con­sciously feel­ing your emo­tions helps you move through them faster,’ says so­ci­ol­o­gist Chris­tine Carter, au­thor of

The Sweet Spot. ‘When you deny or re­press them, you’re ac­tu­ally am­pli­fy­ing them.’ 3 Con­nect Your Feels Most emo­tions are try­ing to tell you some­thing, says David. To fig­ure out what it is, try link­ing the feel­ing to your per­sonal val­ues. For ex­am­ple, if you feel nag­ging guilt, it could be that (deep down) you know you’re not be­ing present for your mom dur­ing a health scare, yet fam­ily is very im­por­tant to you. Recog­nis­ing emo­tions and iden­ti­fy­ing the data they con­tain will help you take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion.

4 Ex­press Yo’self

When your feel­ings in­volve other peo­ple, let them know this ‘as­sertively, di­rectly and hon­estly’, says Fer­retti. If you’re afraid of how some­one will re­act, you can spill your guts in a letter. This might mean apol­o­gis­ing to bae for be­ing MIA, then book­ing a ro­man­tic week­end away. Or ad­mit­ting you’ve been jeal­ous of his work wife and that it makes you feel in­se­cure when he texts her on week­ends. Or let­ting your man­ager know that you could use a new chal­lenge at work, then vol­un­teer­ing for a big long-term project. ‘Emo­tions con­nect peo­ple,’ says Fer­retti. ‘If you’re not shar­ing yours, you’re not go­ing to have much of a con­nec­tion with oth­ers.’

If the is­sue is more per­sonal – per­haps you’re mad at your­self for pro­cras­ti­nat­ing on that novel you’ve al­ways wanted to write – your best re­lease will come from dish­ing to a close friend or not­ing your frus­tra­tions in a jour­nal. Of course, not ev­ery emo­tion has an easy solve. Get­ting over trauma or ma­jor grief, says Fer­retti, may re­quire ex­tra help from a ther­a­pist, who can pro­vide ef­fec­tive cop­ing strate­gies.

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