Meditation For Emotional Regulation & Healing

meditation to control emotions

There are many different meditations that can help with emotional regulation and healing, and choosing the best one depends on the nature of your emotions. 

Let’s take a look at the best options and the science behind them.   

Guided Meditation For Emotional Regulation

1: Vipassana 

Vipassana is one of the most important forms of meditation and also one of the oldest. It involves observing and labeling emotions. Significant research shows that this has a positive effect on emotional regulation. Here’s how to do it. 

  1. Sit with good posture. Make sure your spine is straight and relaxed. Your feet should be shoulder-distance apart. Tuck your chin down a little. Close your eyes. 
  2. Meditate on the sensation of your breath moving through your body. Observe the entire breathing process. You might find it easier to focus if you count your breaths.
  3. When your mind wanders, label it. Say to yourself, “Mind wandering.” Then, when your focus returns, say “Mind returning”
  4. When you experience thoughts or emotions, label them. Say to yourself, for instance, “This is just a thought” or “This is just a feeling of impatience.”  If you observe an emotion, label the specific emotion, such as, “This is a feeling of sadness”. You can also describe the way the emotion feels in your mind and body.
  5. Continue mindful breathing and labeling emotions. This will promote the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system. In turn, you will feel peaceful. When you experience this feeling of inner peace, meditate on it. Observe the sensation of relaxation. How does it feel in the body and mind? Investigating the feeling of inner peace. 
  6. Continue for 108 breaths.

 Studies show that regular practice of Vipassana trains the mind to recognise emotions. And Vipassana master S.N Goenka says that the insight we gain from Vipassana helps us to control the mind.  

Finally, research published in the Journal of Religion and Health shows that Vipassana helps to reduce reactivity to thoughts and feelings.


2: Body Scan  

Jon Kabat Zinn created Body Scan meditation to help increase the body-mind connection. It is an Integrated Body Mind Training technique. With this method, we become more aware of physical sensations and their effects on the mind.

This helps with emotional awareness because one of the first places we notice emotions is in physical sensations. For instance, clenched teeth are a sign of anger. By being mindful of these sensations, we increase emotional awareness.

To practice body-scan, lie down and gradually pass your conscious awareness down the body from head to toe and then back up.

Note that we teach this method in our corporate meditation classes.


3: Focused Attention

It is easier to manage strong emotions when we can focus. With a high degree of concentration we can prevent ourselves from getting lost in “Monkey Mind.”

If you would like to increase your focus, use focused attention meditation (FAM). For instance, you could try “Samatha Meditation”. In this technique, we focus the mind on one object. For example, a candle or a sound.

By regularly returning the mind to the meditation object we strengthen neural pathways. In turn, this helps us to remain in control, making it one of the best type of meditation for emotional regulation.


5: Meditation for EQ 

  1. Sit comfortably with good posture
  2. Take five deep breaths to relax
  3. Focus on your breathing. Let thoughts come and go while you rest your mind on your breath.
  4. Continue to meditate on your breath for 25 breaths. By this time, you will be feeling relaxed and focused.
  5. Continuing to focus on your breath, start to label any emotions you feel. Say to yourself, “This is happiness”, “This is stress” and so on. This increases emotional awareness.
  6. Should strong emotions arise, return your focus to your breath, and continue meditating in a relaxed way. Notice how you can control your focus even despite strong emotions. Continue for 50 breaths.
  7. Begin to focus on physical sensations. Focus on the crown of your head and notice the sensations there. Then slowly move your focus down your body, noticing any tension as you go. This heightens emotional awareness even further. This stage should take 40 breaths.
  8. Take 8 final breaths to relax.
  9. Express gratitude for this meditation. 

6: Mindfulness 

  1. Find a quiet spot where you can sit or stand comfortably with your eyes closed.
  2. Set a timer for ten minutes.
  3. Sit comfortably with good posture.
  4. Focus on your breath. Simply allow your mind to settle on your breath as it moves through your nose.
  5. Continue to focus on your breathing and notice any thoughts or emotions that occur.
  6. When you feel an emotion, do not fight it, or indulge in it. Let it be.
  7. Observe the emotion. Notice how it feels. Observe the pure energy that is emotion.
  8. Name the emotion
  9. Let the emotion go and return to focusing on your breath.
  10. Note: You may notice that you are crying during meditation. It’s normal. Don’t worry.

Benefits of Meditation for Emotional Healing

Meditation helps control emotions by making us more mindful and more consciously aware. In fact, it remedies many of the causes of emotional volatility.

Clinical psychologist Nick Wignall lists four reasons we lose emotional control:

  • Believing our thoughts
  • Relying on others
  • Being judgmental
  • Not taking care of the body. 

Meditation helps with all these factors thanks largely to its cognitive and physiological effects.


Emotional Awareness

In the 2015 research paper Benefits Of Mindfulness Meditation On Emotional Intelligence…  Peerayuth Charoensukmongkol (2015) said that mindfulness meditation:

  • Promotes recognition and awareness of our emotions
  • Helps us recognise other people’s emotions
  • Improves emotional control.

Managing emotions means knowing which feelings are helpful and which are harmful, and being able to control the emotions we experience. Mindfulness, said Charoensukmongkol, helps us identify helpful and harmful emotions in different situations.


Emotional brain

Meditation changes the activity of certain regions of the brain and creating positive physiological states.

For instance, meditation:

  • Increases parasympathetic nervous system activity, which creates calmness
  • Reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, which reduces stress
  • Thickens the prefrontal cortex, which improves attention
  • Strengthens the limbic system, which processes emotions
  • Strengthens the anterior insula, which makes us more aware of emotions and raises EQ. 

Quick and easy

Advanced meditators are known to have very calm minds. However, even beginners can get the emotional benefits.

In research from Michigan State University (MSU) [2] a test group was shown disturbing images. Meanwhile, researchers used electrode caps and EEG recordings to monitor their emotions. This group showed emotional volatility. 

A second group was given a guided meditation and asked to observe the same images mindfully. The results showed that the meditators suffered less emotional reactivity when viewing the images. 


Meditation and EQ

When we are more aware of our feelings, we are more able to control them. This is especially true of Vipassana Meditation, a method in which we label emotions. Brain scans have shown that when we associate negative emotions with words in this way, we calm the emotional centre of the brain.

Research by UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman shows that naming emotions strengthens the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region of the brain. This is an area associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences. Meanwhile, it reduces the activity of the amygdala. In turn, this decreases stress and anxiety.

 


Relaxes the mind 

The Mayo Clinic tells us, “During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.” 


Settles restless thinking

Do you ever suffer from a restless mind? Oh wait, silly question, you’re human, of course, you do. However, one emotional benefit of meditation is that it calms the “Monkey Mind”. When you meditate, you create inner stillness and quietude. 


Calms emotions

Sri Sri Yoga teacher Shriram Sarvotham says, We cannot directly force or demand peace-of-mind, but we can prepare the mind to become still.” Meditation lets you prepare that inner stillness.

C. Alexander Simpkins PhD [author of The Tao Of Bipolar] even recommends using meditation for bipolar disorder.


Purpose

It is a lot easier to control your emotions when you have a life purpose. When you have a purpose, you are not bothered by trivialities. 

When you meditate you remove the noise in your mind. Then, you are able to focus on what matters. This helps you to ignore all those little things that annoy you and that ultimately are irrelevant.  When you’re not bothered by the small things, life feels so much easier.


Consciousness beyond ego

Have you ever experienced a moment when it felt like you stepped outside of yourself? Perhaps you saw a wonderful scene, like an eclipse or a stunning sunset. And it took your breath away. And for a moment you forgot yourself and felt as though you were one with the universe. That is an example of living beyond ego.

The average person filters reality through their ego. They have concepts of good and bad. They think about things only insofar as it pertains to them. And they do not allow the universe to exist in its purest sense.

When you practice mindfulness, you silence your mind and come to experience the pure reality of existence. It is a heightened state where you live in equanimity and complete tranquillity. And it is one of the most pleasurable emotional benefits of meditation.

 


Emotional maturity

People tend to assume that wisdom comes from old age, even though this often is not the case. But actually, meditation can make you wiser too. 

The study “The Relationship between Mental and Somatic Practices and Wisdom” shows that meditation increases wisdom.

Researchers studied 298 participants and asked about their experiences in the Alexander Technique (which is used for good posture), the Feldenkrais Method (a form of somatic education), meditation and ballet. The participants also completed a psychological questionnaire to determine how wise they were.

The results?

It turns out that meditation makes you wiser. But interestingly, so does ballet. The researchers also looked at which meditation practices were best for wisdom. They found that the best meditation techniques for wisdom are Vipassana and mindfulness.   


Emotions in relationships

The number one cause of arguments in relationships is a misunderstanding. And the number one cause of misunderstanding is a lack of emotional awareness.

But remember, we can use meditation for EQ, so it increases our emotional awareness.

When we are unaware of either our own emotions or the other person’s, we are likely to respond in unhelpful ways. High EQ increases our emotional awareness so that we can react to situations in helpful ways. And meditation, as we have seen, increases EQ. Hence, meditation helps with the emotional aspects of relationships. 

Giving Is Caring

By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion's Roar. Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul's biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield. "My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation" - Paul Harrison

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