Buddhist philosophy describes the importance of free-flowing emotions for optimal mental health. However, many of us naturally protect ourselves from difficult emotions, such as anxiety and anger, by avoiding them. For some of us this means working hard, or losing ourselves in endless hours of television watching, which often compounds the problem when we view negative situations on the screen.
I know for me personally, I’ve found myself avoiding negative emotions before going to bed by going on my phone. When we shut out and avoid negative emotions, we also suppress positive emotions, and so we do not enjoy life as fully as we could. Many people learning to practise mindfulness report they become more able to live life to the full.
Mindfulness for Improved Mental Health
Mindfulness is a tool we can use to cope with difficulty. It teaches us to approach difficult thoughts and emotions with a kind and curious attention, rather than avoiding them. By allowing ourselves to feel difficult emotions, we find they lessen in strength the next time they arise. Positive emotions are then free to “come up”, and people in mindful studies report experiencing more joy.
How we feel is created by our thoughts. So what we must first start with is meditating on our thoughts.
How To Meditate For Free Flowing Emotions
1. Get ready to meditate (throw on some comfy clothes, grab a blanket and/or pillow, and sit or lie down comfortably).
2. Watch mindfully the thoughts that come and go. Simply being aware is key, and letting your thoughts flow freely. Sometimes we get distracted, but every once and awhile just remind yourself to come back to the present moment and ask: what am I thinking about in this moment?
3. Be non-judgemental towards your thoughts and feelings, and simply be an observer. Much like watching pictures on a TV screen.
4. Ask yourself how you feel about each thought. What does each thought make you feel? Angry? Happy? Sad? Joyful? If you feel negative towards a certain thought, try putting it into a more positive light. For example, if there’s someone you know who upsets you, and you can’t help but think negatively about them. Ask yourself, what positive traits does this person possess? And be honest with yourself.
4. Accept how you feel. There’s never anything wrong with what you feel – all of it is the normal processes of the human mind.
5. Simply allow yourself to feel your thoughts out, let them flow, drop any resistance or forcing, and recognize thoughts aren’t facts.
What Meditation Really Is
Meditation isn’t about turning off our thoughts and emotions. Meditation is about diving into our subconscious and seeing what thoughts and emotions are hidden there, and then changing how we feel about those thoughts and emotions. It’s easy for us to be angry at ourselves for always being anxious, for example, but through meditating on our anxiousness, we can teach ourselves to be more compassionate and accepting.
Checkout: One Year of Yoga – My Journey
I personally use this method to help declutter my mind whenever I’m feeling more overwhelmed or negative than usual. When we can clearly see what’s running though our minds, we can connect those thoughts with how we’re feeling, and get to the root cause of why we’re feeling what we’re feeling.