Life has its share of ups and downs and no one is immune to the emotions as humans we have been gifted with.We all know elation, joy, sadness, loneliness, jealousy, pain, fear, anxiety, anger… It is difficult to be “thankful” for the less desirable feelings, but each and every one is part of the human experience. How we handle these emotions ad grow with each experience of them determines quite a bit of who we are and who we will become.
Once one can truly appreciate and recognize that as an individual you can choose to gain strength from all emotions, and learn patience, tolerance, pity, gratitude, forgiveness and true compassion, there is an enlightened opportunity for immense individual growth. Ultimately it is the understanding that not only are emotions temporary, but they are shared equally by everyone that enables one to learn compassion, patience, tolerance, etc. Every feeling can produce something positive or something negative and that is entirely up to the individual experiencing it. Our reaction to each emotion we experience is an opportunity for growth. To step back and reflect on choices made and behaviors, helps one move forward, learn and make positive change at their next opportunity.
For me the hardest part of the more difficult emotions is reacting too quickly, not stepping back from them and assessing them before reacting. I am learning to do this and mindfulness is the key. You don’t necessarily need to react to every feeling you have. You can just have that feeling, acknowledge it internally and move on. Thinking before reacting and putting the emotion into context and perspective is an extremely useful tool, yet very difficult to acquire. Take for example the obvious one of anger: Stepping back both physically and emotionally is almost always the right thing to do. Take anxiety – learning to breathe and really assess the situation for what it is worth can significantly reduce or even eliminate the anxiety – realize we are truly never “in control’.
The emotional aspect of eating is difficult to address because I believe most of us are emotional eaters. We are sad we turn to comfort food, chocolate, baked goods, macaroni and cheese; When we are angry we usually turn to crunchy stuff like, chips, popcorn or nuts. We can eat when we are lonely or anxious as well. But just as I mentioned earlier, if we identify the emotion and step back from it briefly before reacting, we can prevent some if not all of the emotional eating that plagues so many of us. Asking yourself why you are feeling a certain way can help. Then asking yourself how you can productively cope with that emotion is the next step. Productive coping mechanisms are learned and difficult, they take practice. That final step would be using your productive coping mechanism towards a productive joyful behavior that does not involve eating.
All these things are very easy to say but very very hard to do. I am learning each day to me more mindful, more aware of my emotions and reactions. Learning to ask myself the right questions and alter my reaction accordingly. This takes a LOT of practice, and I have a long way to go. But through this journey I am also learning to have some patience with myself. The skills will come when they are most needed.