If you want to know how to control your emotions, meditation is a great way to start.
Emotional control is essential in life. I learned that the hard way.
When I was fourteen I was at a friend’s mother’s funeral when I suddenly felt overcome with emotion. But instead of crying I laughed out loud. The old lady next to me glared at me in disgust. I felt ashamed and embarrassed.
Social moments like these are commonplace for the billions who are unable to control their emotions.
“Your ability to regulate emotions affects how you’re perceived by the people around you,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, writing for Psychology Today. “Laughing during a meeting will lead to resentment. Reacting with rage to bad drivers will provoke the wrong kind of attention.”
The good news is that not only can we control emotions, we can turn negative emotions to positive.
Why We Need Emotional Control
For some people it can be near impossible to control emotions. For instance, manic depressives.
But most people can massively increase their emotional control. And it is definitely worthwhile putting in the time to achieve this.
There are major issues for people with no emotional control.
Lack of emotional control:
- Makes us unable to focus
- Causes unnecessary pain for ourselves and those around us
- Creates stress
- Destroys self esteem
- Impacts social skills
- Makes interpersonal relationships a nightmare
Thankfully, we can use meditation to improve emotional regulation. And at the same time, we will also increase emotional intelligence.
Why Meditation Improves Emotional Control
There are over 100 ways meditation helps us.
One of the main benefits of meditation is that it improves emotional control.
The key to controlling emotions is to develop self awareness.
Self awareness is conscious awareness of our own emotions, thoughts, actions, and character.
When we are more aware of our emotions we are more able to control them.
Thankfully there is a very easy way to improve your self awareness: simply name your emotions.
By naming our emotions we significantly boost our self awareness levels.
Brain scans have shown that when we associate negative emotions with words we calm the emotional centre of the brain. This is cited as being one of the main reasons why meditation is good for emotions, because when we sit and focus our minds we become more aware of our feelings. The best meditation for this is Vipassana.
Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation for emotional regulation. It involves mindfully observing our emotions and labelling them. This develops insight. We become more consciously aware of what is happening in the mind. This awareness, in turn, increases our ability to control our feelings.
- Try it now: Learn Vipassana Meditation Technique [TUTORIAL]
Scientific research has proven that vipassana meditation gives us more emotional control.
Research by UCLA psychologist Matthew Lieberman showed that naming emotions caused the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex region—an area associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences— to become more active, while activity in the amygdala becomes calmer, which decreases stress and anxiety. 
A second study conducted by Michigan State University highlighted neural evidence proving that mindfulness helps us control negative feelings. 
The team invited 68 female non-meditators to spend 18 minutes doing a guided meditation. Immediately after this they were shown disturbing pictures, such as a bloody corpse. EEG scans recorded the emotional response of the group. The group were asked to observe the pictures either mindfully or “normally”. The results show that the women with higher levels of mindfulness had higher emotional control than the rest of the group. The researchers state that this proves mindfulness meditation helps us control negative emotions.
For emotional control, simply start labelling your emotions.
Mindfulness For Emotional Control
Try this simple mindfulness meditation to boost your emotional regulation in 10 minutes flat.
- Find a quiet spot where you can sit or stand comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Set a timer for twenty minutes.
- Adopt a position which is relaxing but in which you also feel ready or alert (best choice: kneel down or sit crossed legged).
- Focus on your breath. Simply allow your mind to settle on your breath coming and going in and out of your nose.
- You are now doing a basic meditation.
- Continue to focus on your breath and notice any thoughts or emotions that occur.
- When you feel an emotion, do not fight it or indulge in it. Let it be.
- Observe the emotion. Notice how it feels. Observe the pure energy that is emotion.
- Name the emotion
- Let the emotion go and return to focusing on your breath.
- Note: You may notice that you are crying during meditation. It’s normal. Don’t worry.
Case Study: How Meditation Boosted My Emotional Control
A few years ago I went through an extremely emotional time. I broke up with my girlfriend and didn’t have anywhere to stay (I had left my home in England to live with my girlfriend in Canada, and then we broke up, leaving me nowhere to stay and without the money needed to get home, i.e. I was homeless). This was an extremely stressful and emotional time of my life and a time when I needed meditation more than ever (I also used these tricks to remain positive at a negative time).
It can be hard to balance your emotions when things like that happen. At such times, you need to rely on every strength you have. One strength I have always had is meditation, which I’ve practiced for many many years. For instance, when I am afraid of a big upcoming moment in my life, I will use Buddhist meditations for fear.
By meditating I achieved three things:
1 ) I gave my brain and my mind breathing space to relax, which helped to balance my brain chemistry.
2) I gave myself the power to accept what had happened (the breakup) and to not be so emotionally sensitive to my current reality.
3) I completely silenced my thoughts. I’d been thinking things like “I’ve ruined my life” and “I’ll never have a good relationship,” and “Now I’m homeless and have nowhere to go, I’ll probably starve”. Obviously these were extremely painful thoughts. They made me very emotional. But through meditation I was able to silence these thoughts and get a grip on my emotions.
Meditation has improved my emotional control so many times.
Even when my father died, I used meditation to overcome grief.