How many different emotions do you think you experience in a given day? One? Just a few? A lot?
We all may give a different answer to this question, but, regardless, the ability to identify, understand, and manage our emotions is important for living a happy, healthy life. We all know first-hand that when we experience painful, negative feelings, it’s extremely hard to think about anything else. In these cases, it’s not only essential to recognize what you are feeling, but also to find a way to regulate it so that you are able to maintain an optimistic outlook.
Emotion regulation is one of the core skills taught through the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) model developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. One effective emotion regulation strategy used in DBT is to FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE. However, this is easier said than done! Often when we experience negative things, we are blinded to anything positive that is occurring, however large or small. Therefore, to help redirect our focus from bad to good, we can utilize a system that makes the positives more concrete. For example, write down at least one positive thing that happens every day and include your thoughts and emotions surrounding the event. It could be as simple as a compliment you receive on your outfit, or as significant as winning a raffle. Whatever event you choose to write down, this technique ensures that you are being purposeful about the emotions to which you are giving your focus.
Another effective strategy for regulating emotions is to ACT OPPOSITE TO YOUR URGES. For instance, when you feel sad, your immediate urge might be to isolate yourself from others. Or, when you feel angry, you may want to act aggressively. However, by acting in accordance your urges, you are simply adding “fuel to the fire”, so to speak. Instead, try to identify the urge associated with your emotion and deliberately choose to do the opposite. So, when you are feeling sad, surround yourself with others instead of succumbing to isolation. Or, when you are feeling angry, simply walk away from the situation in which you feel the urge to act aggressively.
These two strategies can be great ways to avoid letting your emotions run your life. They can assist you in making wise, reasonable decisions that will allow you to live a happy and healthy life each day.