When was the last time you allowed yourself to feel your feelings?
I’m really good at shoving my feelings down so that I don’t have to feel them. Problem solved, right? No. It’s a terrible system, really. Not only does this not make me feel better in the moment—I end up easily agitated or angry at the smallest things—but it also sets me up for an emotional explosion somewhere down the line.
We may justify not feeling our feelings with all sorts of excuses: busyness, perceived weakness, being emotionally numb, or simply out of habit. Whatever the rationale, not feeling our feelings is harmful to our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.
“Avoidance will make you feel less vulnerable in the short run, but it will never make you less afraid.” ~Brené Brown
Why Do We Need To Feel Our Feelings?
By holding on and not expressing our emotions we set ourselves up for everything from discontent to unhappiness to illness. Just as your body needs to digest food for nourishment, we must "digest" our feelings to avoid stagnation.
- When you ignore emotions, they can have a “boomerang” effect and come back even stronger.
- By numbing the “negative” emotions—sadness, pain, etc.—you also numb the “positive” emotions because we can’t selectively numb emotions.
- Regardless of if you choose to do so intentionally or not, you will feel emotions. Not acknowledging them, however, can cause pain and suffering.
- Feeling our emotions allows us to connect to others and form better relationships.
How to Feel Your Feelings
If all of the benefits of feeling your emotions haven’t convinced you, I am here to remind you that you are allowed to feel your emotions.
- Get Honest With Yourself: You can’t address a problem if you don’t know there’s a problem. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from being in recovery is I’m not always honest with myself. It seems easier to stay in the discomfort we know instead of stepping into the discomfort we don’t. Ask yourself, “Am I being honest with myself about the emotions I’m feeling, or am I choosing to avoid feeling my emotions altogether?”
- Express Yourself: Expressing our feelings helps us to avoid going into a state of fight-or-flight. While we can express feelings internally, expressing our emotions externally is rewarding, especially when those emotions are hard to decipher or very big. Allow yourself to express your feelings by crying, journaling, dancing, punching a pillow, screaming, painting, or singing.
- Make Time for Yourself: If we’re constantly busy with work, family, relationships, commitments, catching up on shows, etc. it can be easy to avoid our emotions. And, if you’re not used to it, spending time by yourself without any distractions (social media, TV, games, etc.) can be uncomfortable. Make time for yourself to express yourself in a way that will help you to better understand the emotions that you’re experiencing.
- Move Your Body: When we repress negative feelings, they don’t go away. Instead, they end up manifesting physically or being stored in our bodies. Release emotions by going for a walk or run outside, practicing yoga, playing a sport you enjoy, dancing to your favorite music, or taking an exercise class.
- Give Yourself Grace: Stop “shoulding” on yourself - thinking “I should not be (fill in the blank) sad, mad, frustrated, etc.” That process not only invalidates our emotions but also puts unrealistic expectations on ourselves to “keep it together” no matter what we may be going through. Give yourself permission to acknowledge your feelings with compassion and without judgment.
Brené Brown said it best—avoiding our feelings may feel like the best (or only) option and feeling less vulnerable may feel like a win. But without confronting and expressing our feelings we deny ourselves the opportunity to grow and, instead, we choose to live in fear.
When I allow myself to intentionally feel my emotions, I am able to show up as my authentic self, build stronger relationships with the people I love, and—best of all—experience profound contentment.
10 Things to Remember About Emotions
- Every emotion is valid.
- Don't judge your feelings.
- Don’t minimize your feelings for someone else.
- Whatever comes up, honor it.
- Don’t try to rationalize what you’re feeling—if a particular emotion has come up there is a reason to acknowledge it.
- Eliminate people from your life who don’t honor your feelings.
- Grief, anger, loneliness, fear, disappointment, and sadness are valid; even without a specific reason to feel this way.
- Joy, excitement, bliss, and contentment are necessary.
- Don't fall into the trap of comparative suffering—just because another person has it "worse" than you, doesn't mean your feelings are invalid.
- Being open and honest about how we’re feeling, not only builds trust with others and it allows them to share their feelings with us.
Come Back For More
This collection is part of our Year of Self Care Guide. Each month, you'll find a new collection of simple practices that will help you honor, love, forgive and prioritize yourself, week by week.
This blog is intended to provide helpful suggestions for self care and overall well-being. I am not a mental health professional. If you’re struggling I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. Find a Mental Health Professional | National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988