How to cultivate positive emotions?
In emotionally strong situations, where everything seems negative, sad and gloomy... Think of your emotions as an intricate and unique inner garden.
It is your responsibility to take care of this space, and you should think of yourself as its gardener.
Your green space can only thrive if you attend to its various needs, and the same goes for your emotions.
It is important to take the time to honor those emotions as you go through them. Because there is no way around, in life, you can only go through them.
So if you find yourself in a period where emotions seem to overwhelm you, in this article you will find an exercise that can help you get through this tumult of emotions.
Emotions: a garden to cultivate
When we experience loss and grief, it can be difficult to feel anything but sadness and despair.
The last thing that seems possible after a loss is to think of something positive. But it is not a matter of striving to see the good in things.... So the question is, how do we cultivate healthy emotions in the darkest of times?
The answer lies in understanding that pain is not only about physical pains, but also about anger, fear, anxiety and guilt.
These feelings are part of the experience of pain, and the sooner you let them in, without judgment, the sooner you can begin to heal.
Naming your feelings is both a way to accept them and to take back the power they have over you.
Experts say the pain lasts about 12 months (on average)... But sometimes it can be shorter or last longer, depending on who you are as an individual and what the exact circumstances of the passing were.
But how do we do it?
The key is not to try to force yourself to feel happy. But to nurture the little sparks of joy you have until they grow into something bigger.
Be patient with yourself-be kind to yourself.
Practice gratitude, even if only for a few minutes a day, because it makes a difference. You can do it through meditation or cooking, through poetry or painting, or anything else that always manages to make you feel alive and distract you from that tumult of emotions in your head.
The point is no one expects you to be well or happy after a loss, and neither should you demand it of yourself.
Often it is the little things, the simplest things that will bring us back together, that will eventually put things right. It just takes time...
So, ow to cultivate positive emotions?
The inner garden: how to calm down emotions with visualization exercise
Let's try a little visualization exercise. It will help you connect with that deeper part of you, the part you don't show to others, that lies hidden inside you and calm down emotions
Find a comfortable position, the one you prefer.
Close your eyes and focus on your breath
Inhale deeply, follow the flow of air as it travels from your nostrils to your heart...
Exhale, release a thought that has been lingering in your mind and let it go...
Repeat five times, slowly, focusing on the sensations you feel as your body fills and empties with air. At this point your heart rate slows as your lungs and heart thank you for all the extra air they have just received.
Imagine you are walking along a path, what do you see around you? A forest, the sea, an endless flower meadow?
Notice the details, the air quality, the plants and trees around you. After a moment you find yourself in front of a gate. What does this gate look like?
You open it and before your eyes there it is, the secret garden, the one that guards your heart: this is you as seen from within.
What does it look like? A meadow, an orchard, a clearing, a valley?
Pay attention to what you see, observe the plants and life inside, take a walk through your green canvas, and use all your senses to see how you feel.
Take your time
Let your center guide you, there is nothing you have to do now, just be here and observe.
Don't judge what you see, let your feelings lead you.
What flowers are there? What colors are they? Can you smell them?
When you feel like you've spent enough time there, get ready to come back.
Leave a thought before you take off, and whether it is a prayer, a hope, a commitment, make it a kind thought, full of compassion.
"I will take care of you."
It is essential that you be kind and understanding toward yourself.
When you are ready, leave to return, say goodbye to plants and flowers, close the gate and start walking the path from which you came. Let your breath return naturally.
Depending on when you feel ready, return to reality, open your eyes and take a moment to gather your thoughts.
Take a blank sheet of paper or your journal and transcribe your experience, do it in the present tense and as if you were telling someone about it. Don't leave out details; be precise. Again, try not to judge yourself, just tell what you experienced during this journey within yourself.
What is the purpose of this visualization?
The purpose is to create a direct line to your innermost self, to open a small door to which only you have the key, allowing you to look deep inside yourself, to look at your inner emotions.
Sometimes, when we are suffering, we tend to neglect our garden.
It is a defense mechanism; we all do it. It happens because our brains are built to move us away from pain and closer to what makes us feel good.
And, of course, the loss of our beloved pet falls into the category of things we would never want to deal with.
That is why it is easier during grief to lose touch with ourselves and stop taking care of our garden.
What if it doesn't work?
Sometimes happens, and there is nothing wrong with that. There are people who need to be guided by someone's voice in order to visualize. In that case I suggest you try looking for guided visualizations on YouTube, there are many out there.
But at the same time you could also try just imagining and writing down what your inner garden looks like: the exercise I propose in the article Colors and mood: how to avoid being overwhelmed by negative emotions may be helpful.
Try both exercises suggested in this article and let me know!
A big hug,