Finding Your Sunshine

5 Aug

sun shining between cloudsWhen I got into my car this morning, there was ice on my windscreen. I had to pour warm water on it to be able to see to drive at all. Now, just a few hours later, the sun is shining and the sky is blue.

It always amazes me how our weather can vary so much; just like our emotions. We can have our sunny days and grey ones, calm days and stormy ones. Some days we want to get outside and be social, others we want to snuggle up inside alone.

Like the weather, our emotions can feel bigger than us, as if they fill the world.  Faced with emotions we find difficult, like sadness or anger, we can feel overwhelmed. It might feel as if winter will never end, yet just as spring will appear again, so too can our emotions change and shift.

The weather can often impact our feelings, but generally we acknowledge that there’s no point fighting it. It simply is what it is, and we do what we can to work with it. Do we approach our emotions with this same sense of acceptance?

Some people fuse with their emotions, taking them on as a part of their identity – “I am an angry person. This is who I am.” The emotion becomes an expectation.

Others fight against their feelings – “I shouldn’t feel angry. I should be calm.” To feel the emotion is something disappointing.

Or some people simply deny their emotions, shoving them down and pretending they are not there – “Everything is fine. I’m not angry at all.” The emotion is ignored so as not to get in the way.

These actions – fusing, fighting, or denying our feelings – can actually intensify the emotion, making them stronger. We are adding clouds that cover our sunshine.  They will speak louder and louder until they are heard – the clouds become storm clouds.

It might seem strange but sometimes, simple things make a big difference.  It can be as simple as naming the emotion. Consider the difference between “I am angry” and “I feel angry”.  It’s a little difference in words, but can make a big difference to our wellbeing.

Dr Dan Siegel, a renowned interpersonal neurobiologist, often discusses the power of ‘naming it to tame it’.  Identifying the emotion and acknowledging it helps the brain to begin dealing with it. Something as simple as this works surprisingly well, and helps to develop emotional intelligence.

Dr Russ Harris, psychotherapist and trainer in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), discusses how being conscious of our emotions and accepting them leads to defusing them. We notice our thoughts and deal with them, rather than being caught up in them, and use this to make a positive action to enrich our lives.

It is important to realise that just as rain serves a purpose, so do our emotions.  When we reflect on our feelings they can help let us know when change or action is needed.  They are also great checks for our behaviour, and can let us know what is important to us.  They allow us to grow as individuals and identify our own inner resources and strengths.  Lastly, they help us to appreciate all the weather life and our emotions offer us.

Let your experiences and emotions rain down and nurture the garden of your life.

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