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10 tips for emotional freedom

We are living in an age and society where we or people in our lives are experiencing challenging situations - life-threatening health conditions, marriage breakdowns and financial pressures. Other common emotions many of us feel, at least at times, include anger, frustration, anxiety and depression.

No matter what you've experienced, US psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff believes there is always hope for change and healing.

In her book, Emotional Freedom, Orloff defines emotional freedom like this: 'It's the capacity to give and receive more love. Becoming free means removing counterproductive emotional patterns and viewing yourself and others through the lens of the heart.'

Learning to work with any negative emotions, rather than collapsing into them, helps us to grow and rise above what is small within us. For example, instead of spinning out with, say, anger after you've been hurt, what if you could respond from a centered, more empathic place? The outcome – you'll feel happier, more flexible and more alive. You'll also be kinder to yourself and your family and friends.

Here are 10 practical tools Dr Orloff offers to help us master our emotional states and liberate ourselves from life's daily stresses.

  1. Reprogram the biology of your emotions: How? Try this three-minute meditation. Find a comfortable, quiet space where you won't be interrupted. Wearing loose clothing, settle into a relaxed position. It's best to sit upright so you don't fall asleep. Eyes closed, focus on your breath to quiet your thoughts. When thoughts come in, visualise them as clouds passing in the sky. Notice them but don't attach any judgement to them. Maintain a centered state of calm by continuing to follow the movement of your breath. Let yourself feel the sensuality of inhaling and exhaling as air passes through your nostrils and chest like a cool breeze. With each slow, deep breath, feel yourself inhaling calm, then exhaling stress. Inhale calm, then exhale fear. Inhale calm, then exhale frustration. All negativity is released. Your body unwinds. You're cocooned by the safety of stillness. Keep focusing on the breath and only the calm. Practicing this meditation, you'll become adept at upping your endorphins and short-circuiting your fight-or-flight response.

  2. Uncover the spiritual meaning of your emotions: This heart-centering meditation will counter negative self-talk – you know, that broken record: 'I'm not good enough, smart enough, yada yada.' In a tranquil setting, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few long, deep breaths to relieve tension. Lightly rest your palm over your heart. This energy centre is the entryway to compassion and spirit. Inwardly request to connect with a higher power, a force greater than yourself that links you to love. It can be God, a starlit sky, whatever stirs you. Then in your heart area, notice what you intuitively feel, not what you think. You may experience a soothing warmth, comfort, clarity, even bliss. It's easiest to first feel spirit inside you. From that home base, you can better sense it everywhere. Stay aware of your heart as it opens more and more, infusing you with compassion. If negative self-talk still arises, keep your compassion flowing. The spiritual meaning of doing this is learning to have mercy on yourself for any perceived lacking, to know that you are enough just as you are. With that meaning in mind, let the freedom of compassion flood your body, a balm for all that ails.

  3. Learn the enegetic power of your emotions: Try this experiment to sense the difference between positive and negative emotions. In it you will compare two scenarios. With both, observe how words and tone affect your body and emotional state. Scenario 1: Stand in front of a mirror and sincerely say to yourself in a loving, appreciative tone, 'I look terrific and I'm a fantastic person.' Stay focused on your positives. Then feel, don't think. Notice how your body reacts. Are you breathing easier? Do your shoulders relax? Does your gut untighten? Does your enegy rise? Do you feel happier? Lighter? Freer? Also, note any other changes. Scenario 2: Stand in front of the mirror and say in your nastiest, most hateful tone, 'I look horrible and I despise myself.' Really mean it. Flare those negatives up. How does your body react now? Notice your shoulders, your gut, your chest. Is your energy higher or lower? Are you clenching? Breathing shallowly? Do you feel depressed? Are your aches and pains aggravated? Whatever you sense, note it. Stew in this negativity awhile so you won't forget the feel of toxic enegy. This exercise spells out that positive and negative energy are about as opposite as you can get. No confusing them! Ask yourself which you prefer. It's time to make a choice and go after it. The launching pad for emotional freedom is always yourself. Words, tone and the positive or negative energy of emotions all figure in. You must become accountable for the vibes you expose yourself and others to.

  4. Centering for the intellectual emotional types: Intellectuals are bright, artiulate, incisive analysts who are most comfortable in the mind, tending toward a cerebral approach to emotions. When stress hits, they often take refuge in their head as the first line of coping. Their world is powerfully filtered through rational thought. To be conversant with feeling as well as thinking, spend more time in your physical/sensual self. One way to do this is through exercise which will impart an in-the-now body awareness that gives the intellect a rest. Orloff especially recommends yoga, qigong or t'ai chi. These techniques make you fit and also catalyze a direct experience of spirituality, an intelligence larger than your mind that naturally flows from the movements.

  5. Centering for the empath emotional type: Empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme, and are less apt to intellectualise feelings. Intuition is the filter through which they experience the world. Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually attuned and good listeners. For empaths to achieve freedom and enjoy their assets, they must learn to protect their sensitivity and find balance. One strategy to centre yourself is to use your intellect. When you're emotionally wrung out or suspect you've taken on someone's distress, think things through to counter anxiety. Use both positive self-talk and logic to get grounded. First, tell yourself that you can handle this circumstance while taking a few deep breaths to unwind. Second, repeat this mantra: 'It is not my job to take on the emotions of others. I can be loving without doing so.' This belief must make sense for you to stay sane and happy. It forms the intellectual foundation for how you healthily cope with empathy.

  6. Centering for the 'rock' emotional type: Rocks are emotionally strong for themselves and others, as well as being practical. When reeling from emotions, rocks won't lose their cool. They won't pull away or judge either. But, rocks are not empaths; there's a solid border between themselves and the world. Supportive as they can be, rocks tend to internalize their own stressful emotions. These gnaw at them and box them into an unfree place. Overall, rocks aren't the most passionate people on the planet. Because unspoken feelings jam their circuits, they may appear bland, without an edge. To find balance, rocks need to express a feeling a day. Here's how: In a daily journal, record one (and only one) emotion you're experiencing. Don't mince words: You're pissed off. You're content. You're in love. Then share the emotion with someone. Take the risk. This means opening your mouth and heart, remaining present enough to be authentic. If you don't supress your emotions, stress lessens and there's more of you to connect with.

  7. Centering for the 'gusher' emotional type: Gushers were born to share their emotions. They are the opposite of rocks – no-one has to wonder where they are at. Elated, bored or miserable, they tell you. What you see is what you get. The gusher generally unloads stress by verbalizing it. Although it's liberating to voice feelings, a gusher must strike a balance between healthily emoting and drawing on the wisdom within. Experiment with empowering yourself with self-sufficiency before soliciting support from another. First, define the upset. Let's say your boss has made mincemeat out of your self-worth yet again. Next, ask yourself, 'How does this make me feel?' Seething? Demoralised? Let yourself experience those emotions – an essential stage before transformation can happen. Third, work with your feelings using these techniques: set your intention to clear the emotion, keep exhaling negativity, use positive self-talk to love yourself back to centre again. Affirm everything you did right and forgive yourself wherever you might've fallen short. Tune in to your intuition to find a solution.

  8. How to cope with a criticiser without getting demolished: Always consider the source. Criticism is rampant in our world. People have all kinds of opinions about how you 'should' feel or be. If someone you respect makes a suggestion, you may want to consider it. Otherwise, don't dwell on a criticism. A good general rule is to try not to take personallly even what's meant personally. People say untrue things all the time. Your challenge is to not believe them. Graciously let the spiky comment pass. As the Dalai Lama suggests, 'Sometimes silence is the best answer.'

  9. Approaching frustration with patience: What if things aren't happening fast enough? Realise that there's your timetable and there's spirit's timetable. Timing is tricky. Though we may prefer quick results, as Orloff's spiritual teacher has reminded her, 'A plant flourishing in a small pot will die if prematurely planted into a larger one.' Patience primes us for flowering when the time is right. Trusting flow – a larger-than-self intelligence that carries us through life – means pacing ourselves and optimising what we've got. This is more appealing than overstriving or pressuring others (turn-offs that make us look desperate). When you've swum against a mighty ocean current, you know how exhausted you become. Same as when you fight the flow of life.

  10. Attract hope, release depression: To detach from depression first, ask yourself: 'Is the feeling mine or someone else's?' It could be both. If the depression is yours, gently confront what's causing it on your own, or with professional help. If not, try to pinpoint the obvious generator. For example, if you've just watched a comedy, yet you come home from the movie theatre feeling blue, you may have incorporated the depression of the people sitting beside you; in close proximity, energy fields overlap. The same is true with going to a mall or packed concert. When possible, distance yourself from the suspected source. Move at least 20 feet away; see if you feel relief. Don't err on the side of not wanting to offend strangers. In a public place, don't hesitate to change seats if you feel a sense of depression imposing on you. For a few minutes, centre yourself by concentrating on your breath. Visualise depression as a gray fog lifting from your body, and hope as golden light entering. This can yield quick results. Depression frequently lodges in your emotional centre at the solar plexus. Place your palm on your solar plexus as you keep sending loving kindness to that area to flush depression out. For long-standing depression, use this method daily to strangthen this centre. It's comforting and builds a sense of safety and optimism. Look for hopeful people and situations. Call a friend who sees the good in others. Spend time with a colleague who affirms the bright side of things. Listen to hopeful people. Hear the faith they have in themselves and others. Also relish hopeful words, songs and art forms. Hope is contagious; it will lift your mood.

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