When we can be effective with regulating our emotions we just feel better–in that moment and in the future too. Ah, but when we don’t do such a great job managing our emotions, we may rely on unhealthy strategies like avoidance, substance abuse, or overeating.
.These may make us feel good in the short-term but worse in the longer term. By building our emotion regulation skills, we can more effectively manage our emotions with healthier strategies and avoid using these unhealthy strategies.
Emotion regulation skills include a variety of strategies that help us feel better and generate a lasting sense of well-being. Try some of these and see:
Self-awareness is sometimes considered an emotion regulation skill. If we are not self-aware, it can be a real challenge being aware of our emotions. How can we regulate emotions we aren’t even aware of? By increasing self-awareness, we build a better foundation for future effective emotion regulation.
Emotional acceptance is a skill that involves experiencing negative emotions without judging them or telling stories about them to yourself. Emotional acceptance is a key emotion regulation skill because the judgment of our negative emotions simply amplifies them making them stronger, last longer, and become harder to regulate. To accept your emotions, practice mindfulness and non-judgment.
Reappraisal is an emotion regulation skill that involves cognitively reframing an experience as more positive or less negative. Building this skill can both increase positive emotion and decrease negative emotion simultaneously.
There are all sorts of processes in our brains that aid emotion regulation. More specifically, activating regions of the brain associated with positive concepts may be beneficial. One way to do this is to recite and memorize positive words. Bringing these words to mind can strengthen emotion regulation processes.
Attention to the positive
Another way to regulate our emotions is to re-direct our attention towards the positive. Focusing on the negative things makes us feel worse; shifting attention to a brighter view helps us feel better. One study trained participants to focus on neutral instead of threatening faces in a computerized task, and this training resulted in reductions in social anxiety. Build this skill by focusing your attention on the positive.
Temporal distancing involves shifting the way you think about your present situation by thinking about it from a time in the future. We know that life will change, and things could be a whole lot better when the current situation changes.
Self-distancing is an emotion regulation skill that involves looking at your situation as “a fly on the wall.” Distancing yourself from your emotional view of the experience and looking at it from an outsider’s perspective helps you disconnect from your negative emotions and see them in a new way.
Savoring involves giving a little extra attention to positive experiences and the emotions they produce. When we savor our good moments and experiences, we generate more positive emotions and create longer-lasting positive experiences. See the Mindful Social podcast with Dr. Rick Hanson to learn more about this technique.
Gratitude helps us feel good and the added benefit of making others feel good too. Gratitude has been shown to increase positive emotions while also improving the quality of our personal relationships. We can practice gratitude with gratitude lists, gratitude notes, and gratitude letters.