The importance of feelings in mental health.

2020 has given us a bit of a wake-up call around our feelings.  Without our normal distractions and coping mechanisms many of us have been forced to face feelings we are not necessarily equipped to cope with.

Feelings are what help you communicate with others and they are how we influence each other. They also control our body language which can communicate our feelings faster than our thoughts and words can whether that is our intention or not.  Feelings motivate our behaviours and when we are attuned to them they can help us through important events without us having to think through every little detail.  The more intense feelings also help us to overcome obstacles both in our internal world and our external world. They are signals and indications that something is happening whether that thing is good, bad, passive or dangerous. Feelings prepare us for action.
Feelings are what make up your ‘energy’. They are literally energy in your body. They are the sensations you feel when something happens: your heart dropping when you get some bad news, butterflies in your tummy when you are nervous or in love, feeling rooted to the spot or frozen when you are scared, that tight feeling in your chest and your heart speeding up. It is these physical experiences that tell you how you are feeling. Lots of us try to think about how we feel rather than feel about how we feel and the truth is you cannot think your feelings, you have to feel them. Yet, many of us do not know what feeling our feelings actually looks like.

How to feel your feelings:

  • Identify the signals and sensations in your body.
  • Name the feeling if you can or find three words to describe the feeling.
  • Observe how the signals and sensations change.
  • Ask yourself what message this feeling gives you.
  • Fully acknowledge it.
  • Express gratitude that your feelings are guiding you to better understand your mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Feelings are hard work. Lots of us do not really enjoy being attuned to our feelings and taking the time to literally slow down enough to allow them to inform us about who we are and what we need. We worry that we will suffer at the hands of our feelings. And right there is a myth worth busting:

Feeling means suffering — Mental Health Myth Busted! 
Often the thing that gets us in a muddle about feelings is that we confuse the discomfort we might experience when we start to feel with suffering. Feelings are alleviating and cathartic. They do not mean you are a victim and neither are they as scary as you may believe. Feelings will not kill you. It is the avoidance of feeling that allows us to behave ignorantly, dishonestly, passively. 

Feelings help us to make changes and good decisions in life. They are our energy, our charge. I believe that the world would be a happier and more harmonious place if we were all given permission to consider our feelings more honestly and had some guidance on how to handle them appropriately. A great global example, that we can all relate to are the feelings that come up around major movements and work events like Black Lives Matter; Me Too; Global Heating; The Covid-19 pandemic etc. Too often we ignore our emotional reactions in favour of an easy but emotionally unfulfilled life. If you are brave enough it is your feelings, regardless of background, that you are entitled to. Privilege, experience and circumstances might divide us on the surface but when it comes to creating energy for change feelings are our call to action.

We are all equipped to handle our own feelings. Taking yourself to that place can be a challenge and yes a little scary. It is new and you may feel unsure of where it will take you.

If this were a physical workout this would be where the change happens — where the muscle starts adapting to a new form of movement. Your mental health is the same. Each time you learn how to work with feelings and how they connect you with yourself, translating them into healthy thoughts and behaviours, you are increasing your opportunity for a happy, healthy and curious mind.