The human mind is a crazy thing. Constantly firing and ready to respond to daily situations with an emotional response. So how can you control you mind and emotions when things get rough? This has been a long and hard quest of mine (and I guess the rest of the world) for years. Ever since I started having extreme anxiety, I’ve been trying to chip away at ways to control my emotions.
I’ve always been an emotional person, ready to respond with anxiety, and in my teens, anger. Things always seemed to get my back up (and still do sometimes). The truth is – emotions run our lives. Emotions dictate our every actions. We chase our dreams because we’re motivated by happiness, and we’re motivated by sadness so we avoid arguments.
“Human beings are motivated by two things – Pain and Pleasure.”
No matter how we look at it, we can’t escape our emotions. However, we can learn to control them through practise. Anyone who is highly emotional should look at controlling their emotions as a long term goal. You need to be committed to change if you want to control your emotions for the long run. Controlling your emotions is hard, that’s why people start wars, that’s why people start fights, and it’s why people become over-excited. It’s human nature to be emotional.
This is of course with good reason. Emotions make us human. They bring us pain, and without pain, we don’t feel pleasure. The balance is everything, and so one side of the coin can’t be completely removed without the other being completely removed too.
Feelings and emotions make us feel alive, and so shouldn’t be seen as bad or good. The trouble with emotions is, they can become out of control. They can rule over us and make us feel on top of the world, or like we’re the most hated person on the planet.
For example, what did you feel the last time you;
- Were pushed in a crowd?
- Got told some great news?
- Found out negative a secret from someone?
- Saw your partner talking with someone you don’t like?
- Failed at something you cared about?
What if you could control your emotions though?
“Overcoming my anxiety has taught me that everything starts and ends in your own brain. Nothing else matters. If what happens in your brain can be controlled, so can everything after that.”
What if you could be shouted at and not feel the urge to burst in tears? or be tempted into something but restrain yourself? Overcoming my anxiety has taught me that everything starts and ends in your own brain. Nothing else matters. If what happens in your brain can be controlled, so can everything after that.
Literally nothing else matters. Yes, some external forces can be highly influential on our minds and emotions, but that’s all they are – external. If we feel good on the inside, we exert that outwards. We then have the power to positively impact everyone else’s external influence. It’s like the old saying goes –
“If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else.”
So how can we go about this?
Buddhist teachings of course!
Look, I’m not a religious guy, I’ll just put that out there. However, I am open-minded. I don’t strive to be a monk, however, I do strive to pull together all of the life-changing techniques and habits from different places that I can find. Since I can remember I have been fascinated by Buddhism. It’s such a calm and pleasant religion and way of life right?
When was the last time a Buddhist monk started a war?
Control Your Mind And Emotions With Equanimity
Equanimity is one of the 4 pillars of thinking in Buddhism. Essentially, it’s the way of letting things just roll off of your back. Equanimity exercises and values give us balance of mind and give us an unshakable sight of life. We live our lives with a roller coaster of ups and downs, rise and fall, and everything in between. These ‘ups and downs’ play havoc with our emotions and give us certain outlooks on life over time.
Equanimity is the practise of being level headed. It’s understanding these ups and downs and being able to look over them without judgment or emotional attachment – much like mindfulness. Equanimity is more of a state of mind that does not bow to motivators in life like pain or pleasure. It’s more neutral and more understanding of the fact these motivators exist but that we do not need to obey to them.
Equanimity allows us to ‘stand in the middle’ of the noise of life, and not be pulled from one thing or another. The things that motivate human beings and therefore cause emotional response when the outcome is either pleasure or pain can consist of;
- Opposite sex
Each of the above create emotional responses that can be hyper-charged when they are either achieved or not achieved. The emotion that is created from the outcome dicates not only how we feel, (sometimes for extended periods of time) but also how we then act.
An equanimity frame of mind allows us to stand back and justify if our emotional response is rational or not. Achieving full equanimity can be difficult. No matter when you decide enough is enough, and you want to start controlling your emotions, you’ve likely spent years responding to everyday events with emotions. It’s what 99% of us do.
To gain equanimity, it’s important to adopt the values that support the idea of equanimity. By living to these values, we can start to build ourselves up to an overall equanimity frame of mind.
Start Practising Gratitude
The idea of equanimity is simple – get into an unshakable state of mind where you do not allow your emotions to guide you. You can kick start this process off by showing a little gratitude in your life. It’s easy to become disturbed by all the stimuli in life. Things can seem miserable, especially in the winter months! What if you started appreciating those dark mornings. It’s tough to see the good in areas like this, especially if you’re a glass-half-full kind of person.
There is reason to be grateful for everything in life however. So when was the last time you woke up and were thankful for a new day? By simply appreciating the small things, you can start to build up a higher degree of gratitude. Gratitude doesn’t always come naturally, and that’s why it’s important to practise it everyday until it becomes habit. You’d be surprised how much lighter you can feel after a few weeks on consciously appreciating the small things in your life.
This can easily be done through writing. You don’t need to be a writer to get this done. Simply writing down what you’re grateful for each day will enhance your sense of gratitude.
Showing gratitude allows means being able to appreciate the ‘bad’ things that might happen in daily life.
Imagine if you were to shift your mindset to seeing ‘bad’ things as not failures, but steps towards where you wanted to go. I’ve come to realise that in life we need to make mistakes. If we don’t make mistakes, we don’t learn.
The problem seems to be that most people try and avoid ‘mistakes’ because they are scared of the negative emotions that come with them. That’s because we attached the idea of ‘bad’ to making mistakes. Think about it like this…
- If you didn’t fall off your bike 20 times would you be able to ride it now?
- If you didn’t gain 2 stone would you appreciate having your health back now?
The point is, it’s easy to get wrapped up in things we think are mistakes or ‘bad’ things. Being grateful for the ‘bad’ can remove the negative emotional attachment. Everything has the opportunity to grow us and shape us for the better.
For me, I am grateful that I had severe anxiety when I was growing up, because now, I can help other people and I appreciate my mental health so much more than I ever would of.
Develop Your Mind
Controlling your emotions and gaining a higher sense of equanimity can be brought on by developing your mind. This can be done by reading more, taking in new information that is actually useful and general education.
I hated school. It’s not until I left that I actually become interested in the subjects I would now study. Through a higher understanding of psychology, I can see my mental health from a different perspective, not just my own. Learning and developing your mind only beings more intelligence and wisdom. These are both core aspects of growing as a human being.
Developing your mind as you would in the gym is important. Being able to intelligently detach yourself from you instinctive reactions is difficult at first but can be achieved through practises like mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to step away from the negative labelling of thoughts and allows us to just ‘be’.
So often when we’re emotional we tell ourselves – “I’m just a very emotional person”
We see ourselves AS the emotion.
Instead we need to remind ourselves that we are the ones EXPERIENCING the emotion. A long list of emotional responses starts to give us the impression that that is who we are. Over time, this way of thinking becomes a habit until with labelled ourselves with all kinds of things.
For example, I labelled myself as an anxious person by nature for years. I probably more susceptible to anxiety, but I am not anxiety in it’s entire meaning. I know this is true by my emotions now being more balanced.
Controlling Your Mind And Emotions With A Greater Sense Of Wellbeing
One value of equanimity is wellbeing. Having a sense of wellbeing allows us to feel good about ourselves and healthy from within. In today’s world, we work long hours, have plenty of distractions and the human race is becoming less good at looking after itself.
(*Ahem* fast food apps *ahem*)
Are you taking time for all the small things that make you feel good? Simply taking the time to enjoy your tea or walk home in the fresh air brings us a sense of wellbeing. Doing exercise regularly puts us in a frame of mind of health. When we’re in a state of wellbeing, our emotions are more balanced. If we are not taking care of ourselves, we start to feel bad about ourselves and question what we do.
How often are you taking the time to look after yourself? Consciously taking care of yourself arms you with more emotional stability.
Taking Responsibility For Your Actions
Do you take responsibility for your own actions? Maybe you find it easier to blame others for things or the situation you’re in. Gaining a sense of equanimity and controlling your mind and emotions can be gained by taking some responsibility. Sometimes things happen that we can’t control, a lot of times things happen because we allow them to.
Being mindfully aware that you are the only person that has control over their actions, and how they end up is crucial. We can only expect so much help from others before we have to take control ourselves. Sometimes. we let others rule our emotions. Let’s face it, people take things too personally. I know I do sometimes before I have to reign it in.
Being able to take responsibility for yourself whilst not allowing others opinions to rule you is a big deal. A lot of what we do is because we care, or we’re scared of what others will think or say. For example, you might not take that job because you’re worried about what your mom will think. If you can take action off your own back and stop being worried about others influences then you’ll suddenly become free.
When you feel more emotionally free from guilt, you can start controlling your own mind and emotions better. If you can think about what you want to do, and not what others want you to do, controlling your emotions doesn’t seem that hard. Outside influences all of a sudden don’t seem to matter as much.
Bringing This All Together
Controlling your mind and emotions isn’t something that happens overnight. I truly believe that by gaining a sense of wellbeing, practising gratitude and mindfulness, and taking responsibility for your own mind without outside influences is key.
The unshakeable state of mind that equanimity offers is the basis for emotional clarity and calmness. Like anything, these are values which need to be practised until they become habit. Although I say that I’m over my anxiety, I still employ these ideas into my daily life. My pursuit to become as emotionally stable as I can, lead me into developing my own mind by reading and researching. By doing this, I have gained a higher sense of wellbeing and wisdom.
The journey to emotional stability is never over. We all experience outside forces that will test us. Having equanimity is what allows us to step back and realise the bigger picture.
Here’s to your success – Sean
This post was previously published on Projectenergise.com.
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