Notice you are feeling blue, cranky, angry, or anxious? Meditation may be just the tool you need to get yourself out of whatever funk you are in. Meditation not only combats negative emotions, but also enhances positive emotions, like joy, empathy, and compassion.
Mindfulness meditation, which is a meditative technique in which one simply focuses on one’s breath, has been proven to increase overall sense of well-being, decrease stress, and even help reduce negative emotions.
How does meditation regulate emotions?
This change in emotions occurs because regular meditation leads us to improve what scientists refer to as “self-processing,” which means exactly what it sounds like. Self processing is our ability to process the self.
Through regular meditation we are better able to process, or understand, ourselves, so we become increasingly aware of our actions, behaviors, interactions with others, and even our thought patterns. We slowly begin to understand why we are the way we are.
Scientists have found that these changes result from actual neurocognitive changes in the brain. The more we meditate, the more our brain is able to morph and change. Over time old rigid habits and thought patterns can actually begin to evolve.
Why does it become easier to regulate our emotions when we meditate?
A regular meditation practice comes with numerous benefits, from lower stress hormone levels to increased self-esteem. But the reason meditation impacts our ability to regulate our emotions is most likely due to the fact that meditation helps promote our ability to guide and direct where we put our attention.
Meditation practice hones our ability to be in the present moment, and more often than not, negative emotions like depression or anxiety is the result of our mind being stuck in the past or the future. We think about what we need to do, or what we should have done, and that continuous thought pattern centered around the past and future can take us away from what is happening in the here and now.
So remember, every time you are coming back to the breath, you are strengthening your ability to be in the present moment.
The present moment is all there really is. If we can give our full attention to what is going on right now, right here in this moment, we can take every day as it comes.
Being in the present moment is not easy, sometimes when things are hard it is easier to distract ourselves with binge watching TV, alcohol, or distracting ourselves with friends. But the more we distract ourselves, the more we push down emotions that arise.
Meditation teaches us to meet the emotions that arise in the present moment and sit with them, rather than try to run away from them. And the more we are able to sit with our feelings, whether they are good or bad, the more we get to know ourselves. The research echoes this, claiming that the more one is able to sit in the present moment, the better their psychological and emotional health will be.
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