On any given day, kids and teens may feel joy, wonder, disappointment, rage, jealousy, and endless other emotions. Yet, many kids will inevitably learn from parents or peers that “happy” is the only emotion acceptable to express or even experience. “Happiness” in our culture tends to reign supreme as the highest aspiration – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is what we are taught to aim for – what we all deserve.
I commonly hear parents say to their kids:
- I just want you to be happy.
- “How can you be so down? Just look at all you have to be happy about.”
- “Just focus on the positive. You’re dragging everyone down.”
Though these parents have good intentions, their statements might imply that if kids are not contented, they are somehow failing, or that happiness is the only feeling others are comfortable with. Children may respond to these messages by feigning a cheerful disposition and generally suppressing negative feelings to please parents. Unfortunately, suppressing feelings can compromise a child’s psychological well-being and fuel unhealthy behaviors.
Pain is a critical part of the human experience and in most cases, it is healthiest to confront it head on. Encourage children to acknowledge and accept emotions, such as anger or hurt, by using mindfulness meditation strategies. If your child seems overwhelmed by her emotions, encourage her to find a way to express them: talk to someone she trusts, write in a journal, create a work of art, or see a mental health therapist. Let us teach children that no one’s life is solely full of sunshine and that to live fully, we must stand in the occasional rainstorm.More
The Pixar movie Inside Out goes into the head of a little girl, Riley, who experiences her world through the lens of her emotions, each represented by a unique character, Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy and Sadness. Joy is the leader of this group of individual emotions/characters, and works throughout the movie to protect Riley from sad emotions. Finally at the end of the movie, Joy learns that sadness is was pulls people in, and allows Riley to make the connection with her parents that comforts her and helps her begin to manage all the other emotions that are swirling around in her growing brain. That connection with her parents can also be called secure attachment.
Sadness is a primary emotion, and primary emotions are our vulnerable emotions. Sometimes we don’t feel safe being vulnerable, so we mask our primary emotions with secondary emotions. Secondary emotions are the reactions to our primary emotions that are designed to protect our vulnerabilities, so we sometimes use them to put up walls or push others away. This serves an important purpose in situations where we don’t feel safe, but can cause problems when something happens that causes us to feel unsafe with a romantic partner, a family member, or close friend.
If someone we care about does something that hurts us, we might feel sadness, or rejection, or fear, when we are hurting we work to protect ourselves and mask our sadness, rejection, or fear with anger, disgust, or frustration. We lash out to prevent the other person from hurting us more. This behavior starts us on a cycle of pain and protection.
If we can figure out a way to break the cycle, we can rebuild trust and emotional bonds, and regain that sense of comfort and attachment to important people in our life. Just like in the movie, the key to breaking the cycle is to become vulnerable, to express our feelings of sadness or fear. This can begin to change our interactions, and as our loved ones are able to respond to our primary emotions, we are able to be comforted.
The next time your partner expresses anger or frustration or disgust, try to imagine what primary emotion they are experiencing that is being masked, then respond with empathy to that primary emotion. You may be surprised what creating a safe space for them to be vulnerable does for your relationship!More
The original purpose of social media is to connect us, and yet for many women, looking in on others’ lives can leave us feeling inferior, jealous, isolated, or dissatisfied. So how can we put all these posts and pictures in perspective when we seem to get discouraged by them? There’s been quite a bit of research done on how social media affects us psychologically and emotionally. Here are a few tips to help you if you find that it’s dragging you down:
1. Be Intentional & Interact Directly
Studies have shown that always consuming, or simply binge reading and looking at picture after picture online can negatively impact you. I encourage you to instead intentionally research, seek out information, and connect with people in your life. Engage more and be purposeful; don’t just mindlessly scroll through your feed to fill time.More
At the beginning of November my mom sent me a text that read “I just saw my first Christmas commercial of the season…. I’m starting to feel anxious.” It was meant as a joke between us because of how early the commercial side of Christmas starts. All joking aside, Christmas can be a very stressful time for a lot of people. Personally, I can become overwhelmed at Christmas time. The shopping. The parties. The neighbor gifts. The decorating. The list goes on and on. I thought sharing some tips on how I stay peaceful and stress free during this time of year would be helpful.
1) Identify what triggers your anxiety during the holidays. This seems like a no brainer, but is so important to decreasing your stress. Is it handing out neighbor gifts? Is putting up Christmas lights going to send you over the edge? Figure out what causes so much anxiety and then…
2) Identify what causes you the most joy during this time of season. Cookie making? Decorating the tree? If it brings joy write it down. At this point you should have a list of what causes you stress and what causes you joy. Once you have that list…
3) Prioritize. This time of year is not about doing every last Christmas activity, or attending each and every party to which you received an invitation. If that is what brings you joy then by all means please enjoy those parties. If party attendance is on your list of triggers then prioritize which parties are the most important and regretfully decline the others. The idea is to bring joy into this time of year and push out the things that cause so much stress. This may change every year. One year at my house, to decrease stress, we only put up stockings and a Christmas tree. Another year we only attended select Christmas parties. We prioritized what was important to us and let the other stuff fall by the wayside.
The approaching holidays can be exciting, overwhelming and hard all at the same time. Here are some tips to not only survive but thrive during the festivities.
1. Live “whole-heartedly” during the holidays
Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston coined the phase after conducting thousands of interviews studying happiness and connection. “Whole-hearted living” means letting ourselves be deeply and vulnerably seen. Loving with our whole hearts, even when there’s no guarantee. Focus on what is really important.More