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How Mindfulness Builds Emotional Mastery (and Tips to Get Started)

Ever notice how many of your thoughts send you out of the present moment to future worries or past laments in your communications with your spouse or children? If you’re not aware of what you tell yourself in your head (self-talk), or you don’t know how to return your focus to the present moment, it makes managing difficult emotions in your interactions with loved ones challenging, if not impossible.

Why? The thoughts you think inside your mind end up on your lips. They also cause your emotions, in this case, fear-based ones that tend to spin conversations out of control. Your goal, however, is to obtain great outcomes in your life and relationships, right?

There is a neuroscience proven solution. Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a learned ability to live in the present moment, aware and connected to your experience of life from within.

Mindfulness and emotional mastery go hand in hand.

Mindfulness is a learned ability to live in the present moment, aware and connected to your experience of life from within. Emotional mastery, according to Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of the 1995 groundbreaking bestseller Emotional Intelligence, is the “capacity for recognizing [your] own feelings and those of others, for motivating [yourself], and for managing emotions well in [yourself] and in [your] relationships.” The two together can activate a mindful process of attunement to your experience of life in the present moment—your emotions, feelings, thoughts, yearnings, wants, needs, passions, intuitive wisdom, and so on—with a focus on connecting to both your heart and the heart of life around you.

And, this is where mindfulness shines.

Mindfulness offers several tools to build your emotional mastery, among others, deep breathing, imaging, and intentionality, and so on, that make it possible for you to literally choose the thinking-feeling state you need at any moment! (Once you get good at this, that is.) Rather than allow your mind to get hijacked by painful emotions, for example, you can set an intention to remain empathically connected to make choices or to act in ways that strengthen and not harm your relationships.

Ready to try it out for yourself? Try this!

In the middle of a heated discussion with your spouse or child, rather than shutting down or yelling out in anger, here’s a powerful yet simple exercise you can perform to enter a state of mindfulness.

  1. Direct your mind to your breath, and begin taking long deep breaths.
  2. Set an intention to remain focused on your breath, and calm, confident and centered.
  3. Feel your feelings, without judging them. Ask yourself inside, “What am I feeling at the moment? If anger, what is beneath the anger?
  4. Observe your thoughts. Now ask, “What am I telling myself that is causing these intense feelings? What can I tell myself instead to remain calm, confident and centered? to feel safe in the moment?
  5. Observe your wants and needs. Ask yourself, “What do I want here? What do I need? Am I treating myself and the other with dignity?”

The practice of mindfulness allows you remain in a calm state of mind so that your wise-self rather than the reactive-self (fight or flee system) is in charge of your body’s responses. You are not your feelings. You are not your actions. You are the observer of your experience of life, with amazing abilities to take in information, prioritize and think reflectively on what you most need in the moment, plan, set goals, choose, learn, revise, and so on.

Inner calmness is strength that keeps your heart engaged and fears at bay where they cannot control your responses. You have an innate ability to consciously choose how you will respond and what kind of relational experiences you want to create. Why not test the benefits of mindfulness in building emotional mastery for yourself?

How Mindfulness Builds Emotional Mastery (and Tips to Get Started)

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2011). How Mindfulness Builds Emotional Mastery (and Tips to Get Started). Psych Central. Retrieved on December 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 25 Jul 2011
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