Emotions are part of our everyday existence.
We can all relate to having an emotional attachment to something or someone and noticing that attachment everywhere. For example, a child wants a dog and is trying desperately to convince their parents to get them one. So, they seem to become obsessed, noticing every dog that shows up on the shows they watch and the ones they see in public.
Were there suddenly more dogs around? Not likely. The child simply has their emotions tied up strongly to their desire for a dog.
With couples, ideas of children and parenthood are common. Maybe they are trying to have their first child. Maybe they’re waiting for a birth mother to choose them as the adoptive parents. Perhaps, the couple isn’t ready for a child yet or at all, but others are pressuring them with questions of when they will have a baby. Whatever the situation, the said couple cannot seem to help but notice pregnant women everywhere or couples interacting with their child/children.
Why? The emotions of the couple are wrapped up on a strong desire to become parents or to remain childless. Either way, situations like these are usually full of emotional reactions.
Selective Attention or Attentional Control are why our emotions can cause our bodies to react this way. Essentially, each day we are overloaded with so many things to occupy our attention.
Imagine you’re walking your dog through the neighborhood. You notice the houses you’re passing by, the way the sky looks, the joggers and cyclists, the sound of kids laughing in a yard somewhere and for some reason, you happen to zone in on one person sitting outside their home looking sad.
Why? Normally, our mind will choose to gravitate to where our emotions are, when too much is around us to focus our thoughts.
It’s likely that a source of sadness that you’ve experienced during the pandemic caused your emotions to pay more attention to the sad person, since you could relate.
Emotions have power.
Take the same scenario of walking the dog above, only instead of a dog you are walking through the neighborhood with your early elementary school aged child. While you go through the same walk, your child who is aware that the pandemic has changed life but doesn’t fully understand it strongly enough as an adult, gravitates to the laughter of kids in a yard.
Your child then says, “Hey, hear that?! When we get back home, can you run through the sprinklers with me? Wouldn’t that be fun?!”
What’s the difference? Whether we are an adult or a child, we have power to control which thoughts and emotions to concentrate on more rather than allowing our emotions and thoughts to empower us in a negative way.
Maybe you’ve gotten the coronavirus or possibly, you’ve lost loved one during these times.
Perhaps you are a person of color, as I am, and your heart, mind and soul keeps breaking over all of the injustices that are still occurring.
You may have felt inadequate in one of your roles at work, home, or in any area trying to navigate the new ways of life since the pandemic became more real for our country.
There may be exhaustion setting in, as you haven’t had a break or vacation for far too long and all you want is some way to temporarily escape and have some fun for a while, but it isn’t possible.
I can go on with a myriad of scenarios that can apply to just about anyone, but the point is that mental health is super important and you have a good deal of power to stay mentally healthy.
This video is Renée Elise Goldsberry from the musical Hamilton, as performed on Broadway and more recently shown on Disney+. Watch this brief video explaining the concept of the power you have within you.
Emotions can lead our thoughts astray or steer us onto the best paths.
That one minute video says a lot. The creator of that musical who also played the main character of Alexander Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, shows this very clearly. In a nutshell, Hamilton was a minority having been born and raised on the island of St. Kitts. He arrived in what would be America, an orphan with nothing, who had also witnessed his own mother’s death. Yet, he saw all of the pain of what was happening in this land and asked himself the questions referred to in the video above.
Rather, Alexander Hamilton said POWERFUL statements like the following:
He could have given into so many negative emotions, wasting away his life and just survive.
He could easily have said, “What’s the use? This is too much. I’m just one person. I don’t even have any family with me.”
Instead, he saw that he was alive, intelligent and resourceful and chose to seize the moments being given to him. To stay focused on the positive emotions that were telling him, “Go for it!”
You can gain control.
I don’t know your situation, but we all have the power to take the reins of our emotions and thoughts, which while clearly different are also heavily intertwined, and decide what will have power in us. Even during a worldwide pandemic that is still shaking up people’s lives, this holds true.
As Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us, we can have these as our points of focus. They can change even the worst of situations:
Use your emotions to be the best you.
Two major themes of both the musical and of the good that many have done during the pandemic is this concept.
As a Puerto Rican Christian woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a business owner, I know that my life impacts others. During these times, our lives’ impacts matter all the more.
Whether we like it or not, we are living a part of history. People will look back on these times we are living to see how we handled them. What will they learn from us?
We can be complainers or encouragers.
We can be hopeless or hopeful.
We can be bystanders or world changers.
We can be blind to reality or stand up for those who need us.
None of the above are easy, but it’s up to each of us to rise up!
You’ve got the power!
Maybe you have been already been managing your emotions fairly well. I’m proud of you! That isn’t easy when life is full of so many unknowns.
Possibly, you may have reached this point and wish you had maintained your emotions better than you did. Or you may think you haven’t done enough to help yourself and/or others.
The great fact is that you have power. You truly do!
Moving forward there are still many ways to shift your emotions for your well being and that of those around you. It’s not too late.
And know that this doesn’t mean that you can’t have negative emotions. They are just as important to have at certain moments, as long as they are not where you remain.
With so much ahead of us to accomplish as a people, living in times that are not ones any of us have lived through before, our mental health matters very much.
As writer Joshua Becker wrote on this subject:
These realities [Selective Attention or Attentional Control] extend to almost every possible response toward life, no matter the circumstances:
- If you’re looking for reasons to be scared, you’ll find them.
- If you’re looking for reasons to be mad, you’ll find them.
- If you’re looking for reasons to be encouraged, you’ll find them.
- If you’re looking for reasons to be grateful, you’ll find them.
- If you’re looking for reasons to be confident, you’ll find them.
- If you’re looking for reasons to be pessimistic about the future, you’ll find them.
- If you’re looking for reasons to be optimistic about the future, you’ll find them.
If you are looking for a reason to be x, you will probably find it.
YOU have the power. YOU can decide. YOU can act. YOU can make the journey better.
Life is yours, so don’t lose focus.
Whether you believe in God or not, the concepts of this Bible verse still has powerful truths.
Focus on what you are thankful for.
Focus on speaking praise to those who deserve it and need it.
Focus on good when life gets bad; balance is good.
Focus on love. Those you love and those who love you.
Focus on holding on to faith, to believe in what you can’t see knowing that it’s coming, for this generation and for all the ones that will follow us.
Hope is powerful! Though life is hard and often can be VERY HARD, we humans are quite resilient and resourceful.
While New York City still has the most amount of victims of COVID-19 in our nation, and there is still a world of pain there, take solace in this video and maybe find a song of your own that makes you happy and fills you with hope. Then, go and do all you can to make this world a better place.
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