Over the past months, we have explored life balance and satisfaction, reflected on the health of our relationships, and learned practices to improve our spiritual and mental well-being. Moving onto the next section of the Integrative Health and Wellness Assessment (IHWA), we now look at our emotional life and how we tend to it. Some people think that the way we emotionally respond - or react - to the world around us is a fixed aspect of our personality. This is not true. Learning to accept the depth of our emotions takes courage, willingness, and a sense of equanimity. With flexibility and openness, we can surrender outdated and restrictive patterns and adopt new ways of being.
Emotions do not have to run our life. We can actually cultivate the power to harness and use them to our advantage. If we pay attention, emotions will tell us how we view the world andwhat triggers our insecurities so we can take responsibility for them. If we allowed our lives to be rerouted every time we had a fluctuating emotion, we would forever be chasing our own tails. Think of the spectrum of emotions that happen on any given day…
Anger at our colleague who did not fulfill their part of the project; compassion for the woman who has no home or food for her child; grief for our losses; gratitude for our blessings; worry; acceptance; anxiety; peace; sadness; joy; fear; love. But we are not the victims of our emotions; our emotions are for us to know, acknowledge, and understand in order to become our best possible self.
Every emotion is rooted to a physical sensation. Have you noticed when you get angry, how it starts somewhere in your body? For me, when I am becoming angry I start to sweat, I feel tightness in my chest, and from the pit of my stomach emerges this outward, forward, and intense energy. I’ve learned to be aware of the physical sensations and discomfort so that when the anger is ready to be released I can be constructive about it and not make it other people’s problem. Joy has a completely different pattern. Some people describe true joy as a something that originates at the base of the spine and rises upward, circulating throughout the limbs, bringing enthusiasm, excitement, and a sense of renewal.
Start to become aware of the physical sensations that suggest you “should” feel a certain way. Watch yourself label that physical sensation as pleasant or unpleasant, and then notice how you decide on the emotion: “That makes me sad,” or, “That makes me happy.” Lastly, notice how you then behave in response to that emotion.
Mind-body-spirit; it is, indeed, all connected.
As we move through this next series of articles on the emotions, consider: Do I recognize my own feelings and emotions? Do I respect the feelings and emotions of others? Do I seek guidance when necessary?
Embrace this opportunity to accept and come to peace with your emotions.
Billy Rosa is a Registered Nurse, Integrative Nurse Coach Visiting Faculty, University of Rwanda