The Benefits of Regulating Your Emotions
Personal disclosure: I’m a big baseball fan. I say as much right here. My team of rooting interest is the Los Angeles Dodgers. There aren’t too many of us loyal Dodgers fans up here in the Portland Metro area. So, if you see a guy walking around Tualatin or Lake Oswego with a Dodger hat on, chances are that it could be me.
Anyway, every year around baseball playoff time my house gets a little intense. In the span of three games I can go from being ecstatic, to anxious, to distraught, to angry, to despair, back to jubilation. It can be rough on my family. And this is just baseball.
We all have emotions, and there are certain things that can take place that send us through the whirlwind of reactionary responses. It could be the words that someone uses, or their tone of voice. It could be an action that was or wasn’t done. Or maybe that it wasn’t done correctly.
It may make sense why we responded the way we did when presented with a painful emotion. But it is likely that we didn’t walk away from that encounter feeling like we got what we wanted from it. Let’s face it…there are major benefits to being emotionally regulated. We can be better friends, spouses, parents, employees, and supervisors when we intentionally choose the corresponding actions or behaviors to our emotions. Here are just a few of the benefits to emotional regulation:
Benefit #1 of Emotional Regulation — Make Intentional Decisions:
Being emotionally regulated allows you to accept the feelings that you are carrying from points of conflict. Imagine having a hard day at work and you now have to go interact with your family. It is so easy to walk into the house or into the next room and take our frustrations out on others. We don’t want to do it. It just happens…almost like we don’t have control over it.
Emotional regulation gives you the opportunity to make intentional decisions. Life does not need to feel out of control. You can make intentional decisions over behaviors, rather than allow your emotions to dictate the behaviors.
Benefit #2 of Emotional Regulation — Healthy Choices:
We often make unhealthy choices when we are feeling vulnerable or emotionally dysregulated. For example, I often eat way too much ice cream when I am feeling bad about myself. Other people may choose to smoke a cigarette when experiencing stress. Whatever it is — food, recreational activities, or relationship — we sometimes make unhealthy choices when we are experiencing painful emotions. And some behaviors can often compound or add to the original painful emotion.
Being emotionally regulated doesn’t mean that you won’t make those same decisions or choices. What it means is that you will be able to choose what is healthy for you, and what is not. Going back to the ice cream example, I might still choose to eat the same amount of ice cream. It will be me making an intentional choice for what is healthiest for me in the moment. Other times, I might make the intentional choice to exercise instead. But it will be me choosing. Not an emotional reaction.
And I can do it without the guilt that can follow when my painful emotions drive my choices.
Benefit #3 of Emotional Regulation — Constructive Communication:
This is valuable! There is destructive force behind people who communicate from a painful emotional reaction. This doesn’t just mean that there is yelling or screaming, although that can certainly be part of it. If you feel like you are not good enough, you won’t communicate messages of personal needs or desires. That, of course, will lead to dissatisfaction in your relationships or at work.
When you are emotionally regulated, you will be able to listen well and deliver messages that you want to give. You can control your emotions and function out of a place of peace, rather than a place of pain.
Benefit #4 of Emotional Regulation — Peace-Filled Relationships:
This is tied to the constructive communication. When you are able to communicate from a place of peace — which is what happens when you are emotionally regulated — you are able to communicate care for the other person. We are better able to communicate that we are on the same team, even when that is not communicated to us.
This is especially valuable if you are speaking to a spouse or partner. It is so easy to make a biting or sarcastic comment to those we are closest to when we feel like a need is not being met. We can say words in anger if we feel alone or abandoned. Our spouse or partner may even withdraw from our words of anger. This is the opposite result of what we are hoping for. When we regulate our emotions, we are able to be intentionally vulnerable and share our true feelings. And this can change the dynamic or relational system.
Benefit #5 of Emotional Regulation — More Self-Confidence:
Have you ever had that internal message playing over and over in your head? You know, the one that says, “I’m not good enough,” or “I don’t matter.” Maybe it sounds more like, “I don’t fit in here with these people. They’re all so accomplished.” Well, it’s probably more accurate to say that these messages just aren’t all that true.
When you are emotionally regulated, you will lean more into what is true about you as a human being. You’ll learn to have the same amount of grace for your own weaknesses — likely the same amount that you give to others for theirs. You'll also give recognition to the value and strengths you bring.
Benefit #6 of Emotional Regulation — Greater Satisfaction:
This one makes sense, right? If you are intentional about the choices you are making, have healthy and happy relationships, and feel more self-confidence, well…you’re going to be more satisfied. A benefit of emotional regulation is having greater satisfaction in your work life and in your non-work life.
Benefit #7 of Emotional Regulation — Improved Mood:
If you are able to regulate your emotions, you will find that your “lows” do not get quite as low. Or if you get “low,” then you will be able to bounce back a little quicker. It is true with anxiety and anger, as well. Your mood will improve as you exercise the muscles of emotional regulation.
Is emotional regulation and easy goal to attain? No. You will have to work at it and practice it. A mindfulness approach of mediation and journaling can help you get there. A professional therapist may be able to help you learn to get there even more quickly. But the truth is that it will require a lot of practice and some hard work.
If you are reading this, it is likely that you are old enough now that your brain is hard-wired to react a certain way when experiencing an emotional pain. You’ve got years and years of operating in this way. But here’s some good news: you are capable of change. You just need the personal desire to change, and maybe the help of the right guide.
Wellspace Counseling is located in Tualatin, Oregon and serves Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Tigard, and the Greater Portland Metro Area. To find more information about Wellspace Counseling, visit the at www.wellspacepdx.com.