Today, I came across a concept that is not new, yet felt timely + worth noting...emotional flexibility. One aspect of emotional flexibility takes into account that we feel a variety of feelings throughout the day + allows us to both feel them one at a time and to hold them all at once.
This feels like the answer to the riddle I've been trying to solve this year. How do I experience the accomplishment of my daughter's graduation while knowing that my friend will never see her son graduate? How do I laugh at a silly joke, while people are dying alone due to Covid? How do we celebrate the holidays with gifts, when so many are facing eviction + food pantry lines? Joy + pain...desire to forget for one second + guilt. We balance these thoughts + emotions every day, but I think lately the heavy stuff has felt just so extremely heavy.
So these words from Brad Stulberg feel powerful: "Embracing the murkiness — and cultivating the emotional flexibility required to do so — yields large dividends. Resilience comes from deliberately practicing joy, even during awful times; happiness is intensified by experiencing and feeling deep sadness."
Emotional flexibility involves both advanced mental gymnastics + the most basic observations of life. It may feel natural when it allows us to clean up explosive diapers while not forgetting the existence of baby belly laughs + soft warm heads against our cheeks. It may take work when we experience frustration over the ever present socks next to the bed again...and have to remember the comfort that comes from knowing they always endure our cold feet in bed.
A few ways we can cultivate our emotional flexibility:
-allowing ourselves to feel our feelings without guilt
-noticing + naming our feelings
-journaling (to express + explore more deeply + gain perspective)
-write down three good things every day
-asking about + acknowledging the legitimacy of other's feelings
-practicing being present in all that we do (this releases us from the past + the future)
-exercising (can get us into our bodies + out of our minds)
-connecting with others (especially those who are emotionally flexible or provide perspective)
-connecting with our deeper values
-spending time in nature
-reaching out for professional help when needed
Emotional flexibility gives us permission to notice the beauty of a cloud-filled sky even as we are experiencing pain + loss. It allows us to feel sadness even as we know Georgia O'Keefe + mangos + sunbeams + new leaves on trees + desert wildflowers. Emotional flexibility strengthens our resilience + keeps us from depression + despair. It acknowledges that we contain multitudes...and that just might be our superpower.
Loads of love to you,