Emotional regulation is a vital aspect of mental health and well-being (Linehan, 2014). When we experience strong emotions such as anger, sadness, or fear, it may introduce awarenesses of difficulty to navigate effectively. Unregulated emotions may lead to negative behaviors such as lashing out, self-harm, or substance abuse (Gross & Muñoz, 1995). Alternatively, regulated emotions can encourage nourishing behaviors such as effective communication, problem-solving, and self-care (Thompson & Calkins, 1996).
To begin, emotional regulation is integrating awareness for identifying and understanding our emotions (Cole et al., 2004). This is a valuable tool for self development and self-reflection to recognize a specific feeling and identify why it is being felt. Once the source of the emotion is identified, the process to begin may now unfold (Hayes et al., 2013).
Processing emotions involves acknowledgment and acceptance, in the absence of judgment (Hayes et al., 2013). It is valuable to allow feelings to be felt fully without the active assertion to separate from it, or by a purposeful shift to suppress. By the potential influence of learned behavior, this process may be a challenging initiation to feel if previous intention was to deny emotions in the past (Linehan, 2014).
Second is to identify healthy forms of managing emotions (Thompson & Calkins, 1996). This may involve techniques such as mindfulness (Kabat-Zinn, 2013), deep breathing (Gross & Muñoz, 1995), or physical exercise (Craft & Landers, 1998). By engaging in activities to assist in regulating emotions, it may be beneficial to avoid negative behaviors and cope with stress more effectively. Through emotional regulation, the additional form of adopted awareness may be placed into learning how to reframe our negative thoughts and beliefs (Beck, 1979). Negative self-talk can also contribute to unregulated emotions and developing mental health issues inclusive of anxiety and depression (Beck, 1976). By identifying and challenging negative beliefs, there is a segue into the opportunity for healing from past trauma whereby improving mental health.
Emotional regulation is a powerful tool for healing and growth (Linehan, 2014). By learning to identify, understand, and manage emotions, an ability to refrain from maladaptive behaviors may be the developing path towards healing. It may be valuable to discern that emotional regulation is a journey that requires time and effort to master (Cole et al., 2004). However, with steadfastness and diligence, the ability to develop the capacity to govern emotions with skill and grace, and thereby bask in the fruits of emotional well-being and restoration.
Beck, A. T. (1976). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. New York: International Universities Press.
Beck, A. T. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.
Cole, P. M., Martin, S. E., & Dennis, T. A. (2004). Emotion regulation as a scientific construct: Methodological challenges and directions for child development research. Child Development, 75(2), 317–333. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2004.00673.x
Craft, L. L., & Landers, D. M. (1998). The effect of exercise on clinical depression and depression resulting from mental illness: A meta-analysis. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 20(4), 339–357. https://doi.org/10.1123/jsep.20.4.339
Gross, J. J., & Muñoz, R. F. (1995). Emotion regulation and mental health. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice,