Building an Emotional Muscle

One of my favorite definitions of mental health is the ability to experience and express emotions in an effective way. It’s simple, but so on point.

Recently, I came across this blog post on how parents can help their children identify and express their emotions. I love how the author encourages naming – and honoring – of emotions from birth.

All too often, though, children are raised without this kind of emotional attunement, or as we call it, “mirroring,” by the adults in their lives. Kids are told not to cry, not to be scared, to get over it, and to be happy – even when they’re not. Parents might have the best intentions – most don’t want to see their children upset – but avoiding and discouraging emotions will invariably backfire.

It’s never too late, though, to build your own emotional vocabulary, to respond to your emotions compassionately, empathically, and with curiosity; and to practice acceptance of the waves of feelings that course through you each day. Can you acknowledge your feelings without negating them? Can you accept what you are feeling without trying to make it go away? Often, the more we accept our emotions – and then less we discount them or try to suppress them – the less power they have over us.


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