Many of us have a hard time feeling our feelings. Maybe we’re used to glossing over our emotions. Maybe we think they’re inconvenient or annoying or useless. Maybe we think, Oh, I don’t have time for that. I’m too busy to be sad. Maybe we worry we’ll sink into a deep hole, opening up the Pandora’s box of feelings, and not be able to climb out.
What can help is to change our mindset about emotions. Because our emotions aren’t these awful things. They’re messengers. Sometimes, yes, they can be misguided. Sometimes, they can be dramatic and exaggerated. But we don’t have to let our emotions dictate our lives.
And we can also listen. Because our emotions are extensions of ourselves. They deserve to be acknowledged.
In their book Your Life is Your Prayer: Wake Up to the Spiritual Power in Everything You Do, Sam Beasley and BJ Gallagher talk about taking an emotional weather report. I love this idea.
Before they even get out of bed, the authors ask themselves: “What’s the emotional weather report this morning?”
Some days, it’s: “Overcast with a chance of tears,” or “Sunny and clear; excellent visibility.” Other days, it’s: “Anxiety level high this morning. Chance of clearing later in the day. Tune in throughout the day for updates.”
When we view emotions in this way, we foster openness and acceptance. We don’t fight with our emotions. We don’t get tangled up in shoulds—as in I should be happy. I shouldn’t be upset. I shouldn’t feel angry this early in the morning. I should be grateful. I should be calm.
When we view emotions in this way, we’re simply gathering information, so we can make an accurate weather report. We don’t have to agree with these emotions. We don’t have to like them. But we do need to name them. We do need to say, This is anger. This is sadness. This is nervousness. This is a mix of all three. We do need to say, I hear you.
Beasley and Gallagher further note: “One of the most important things I’ve learned over the years is that I don’t have to DO anything about my emotional weather report—I don’t have to ACT on it. Feelings come and go, like clouds. I don’t do anything about clouds—other than to take them into account as I choose what to wear, or whether to take an umbrella with me when I leave the house. But I don’t control the clouds—I don’t try to change them—I don’t get upset or yell or assert that there shouldn’t be clouds. I just notice them, perhaps put on a sweater, and go about my day.”
You might take your own emotional weather report every morning, and throughout the day, too. After all, the weather rarely stays the same in a single day. Temperature and humidity go up and down. Clear skies turn into stormy clouds. Clouds pass, and the sky becomes crystal clear again. There are strong winds and soft breezes. There’s snow and sunshine. There’s lightning and thick, heavy fog.
You might write about your emotional weather report, or you might draw it. You might ask a friend to do this with you, and text each other your daily reports. Experiment to see which practices resonate with you. What helps you to process and honor your emotions?
You might breathe through your emotions, noting the various sensations you’re experiencing as you inhale deeply and exhale deeply. You might listen to a guided meditation that focuses on feeling your feelings (such as this 15-minute practice on YouTube).
Beasley and Gallagher include this beautiful quote from Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
What might serve as your anchor?