Regulate Emotions with Mindfulness


Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.”  ― Jean Racine

Difficulties with emotions are at the heart of the majority of mental health problems. Depression, anxiety disorders, panic disorders etc. afflict hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Unregulated emotions create suffering for the individual and their families and can occasionally result in suicide. Mental health is estimated to account for nearly half of all health care spending worldwide. It accounts for the lion’s share of prescription drug use. But, the medications don’t always work, are costly, and frequently have troubling side effects. Needless to say finding safe and effective ways to deal with out of control emotions is badly needed.

Mindfulness practice has taken center stage in the psychological treatments for mental health problems in what has been called the third wave of therapies. This has resulted from the accumulating evidence of the effectiveness of mindfulness practices for a myriad of mental health issues. Mindfulness is a natural low cost method, with very few side effects, for dealing with a variety difficult psychological issues including those that involve difficult unregulated emotional states.

One of the ways that mindfulness appears to be effective in treatment is through increasing the individual’s ability to regulate emotions. That doesn’t mean that it eliminates emotions. To the contrary mindfulness brings emotions into full awareness. But, in doing so the magnitude and the impact of the emotions is mitigated. As a result individuals are better able to respond effectively to the emotions with reason and compassion. Mindfulness improves emotional intelligence

In previous posts we discussed how mindfulness meditation increases emotion regulation by altering the activity of the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, and parahippocampal gyrus (see and

In today’s Research News article “Baseline and Strategic Effects behind Mindful Emotion Regulation: Behavioral and Physiological Investigation”

Grecucci and colleagues explore the mechanism by which mindfulness practice improves emotion regulation. They found that emotions could be regulated by either of three strategies, mindfulness meditation, or a cognitive strategy where the reason for the emotion evoked by others is reevaluated, or by mindful detachment where the individual simply views the situation and the feelings with an attitude of acceptance and lack of judgment. All of these strategies were successful in reducing emotional and physiological reactivity.

When they had meditators apply the cognitive and the detachment strategies they found that the meditators did even better when employing the detachment strategy but not when they employed the cognitive strategy. It has been previously shown that mindfulness improves cognitive reappraisal of emotions These results suggest that mindfulness improves emotion regulation through both cognitive reappraisal and by mindful detachment, but that mindful detachment is the more important of the two. Mindful detachment allows the individual to simply view and not judge the situation and the emotions evoked and thereby react reasonably and effectively.

So, be mindful, view emotions with nonjudgmental detachment, and regulate your emotions.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” ― Oscar Wilde



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