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Control your emotions by meditating

Tags: stress, antiaging

UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman believes that naming your emotions allows you to control them. Lieberman used fMRI scans to show that naming - or labeling - negative emotions actually calmed the brain’s emotion center (the amygdala). The results of the study could explain why meditation is so effective in releasing negative emotions. Meditators can simply label their negative emotions, and let them go.

Psychologists have always encouraged people to talk about their emotions as a way to gain control over them; but no one knew the mechanics behind the practice. They just knew it works.

“In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses,” said Lieberman in Psychological Science.

Mindfulness meditation teaches you to pay attention to their emotions as they surface, acknowledge them (name them) and let them pass through your mind. This technique is also used in learning to control the constant stream of mental chatter by using the ability to NOT react or attach to a thought or emotion and allow them to pass through.

It is like being at the mall when you haven’t brought your wallet - a store catches your eye (a thought or emotion); but you do nothing more than acknowledge it - “oh look a shoe store; I feel unhappy (because I forgot my wallet and can’t go in” - and if you choose not to enter but to keep walking, once the store is out of your sight, the store, and associated the emotion, no longer exist for you - unless you choose to hang on to that mental image and emotion!

This is how mindfulness works with emotions. You think a thought about some unpleasant situation, and immediately your system is flooded with negative emotions; but if you just say, “hmm, look at that; I feel anger (or guilt, or fear...) when I think about that”, without getting sucked into that train of thought and perpetuating the emotion, it actually goes away within seconds!

Most people aren’t aware that they have the ability to control their emotions. Meditation brings that ability to light. You can deliberately choose not to get sucked into negativity; and, even better, the more you meditate and the more control over your thoughts you have, the more you can deliberately choose pleasant thoughts and emotions.