Mindfulness allows us to use our emotions as a guide and to reclaim our power within each moment. We do not need to give in to anxiety, though we undoubtedly will from time to time. We do not need to sit in our sadness every time we feel it stirring, but we can choose to do so in order to reflect on its origins and how we want to respond. A useful practice that can help change your mindfulness practice is the simple act of “putting a period on it.*”
We know we need to accept our emotions and honor them. In so doing, we need to name those emotions and accept that they are a natural human response but impermanent. And we are told that in this mindful response to our difficult or even joyful emotions we must inquire as to their origins and let go of the need to control them. Psychologists offer multiple versions of four, five, six and ten part steps to mindfully manage our emotions in this way. I find, however, that “putting a period on it” is something I can actually remind myself of --in the moment. I am responding emotionally, after all, right? I am not always able to take the time to remember every step of the acceptance and release process but I can tell myself to “put a period on it.”
When I’m in traffic and my heart begins to race as I realize that I am definitely going to be late and should have left when I’d originally planned, or when I receive word from the mechanic that I need multiple unexpected repairs, or when I feel a family member or a friend has let me down… I can say “I am feeling _____________. I will put a period on that and move on to find my next best step.” I might have to do more reflecting later if it’s a big issue. But naming it and moving on in the moment allows me to find a solution orientation instead of just reacting or fueling my negative feelings. I see the situation for what it is. I see my objective more clearly. My heart rate begins to slow, my breath regulates, and my ability to listen, plan, & even smile can return.
The next time you feel negative emotions taking over, consider "putting a period on it.” See how it feels. You might just find that your emotional response is easier to move through than you would have thought and you can get on with your day. Period.
*(Amara, H., 2014)