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How to Control Your Emotions

Have you ever felt like your emotions are taking you for a ride when you really, really don’t need them to do that right now? Well, you’re in luck. There are ways of controlling your emotions (or, at the very least, your reactions to those emotions) whether you’re sad or too excitable or if you are really hurt and feel like falling to pieces. Read on.

Method 1 of 3: The Doing

1 Control your breathing.Some people assume that emotions are “all in your head,” whereas actually all emotions are just plain ol’ physical responses. You are running on Human version 2.013. In all of us, anger pushes heart rate and blood pressure up (which is why having an angry temperament is a predictor of heart disease); as a result, our breathing changes. Anger and anxiety can only “work” if match the breathing pattern — taking quicker, more shallow breaths. So stop it. Take time to:

  • After a slow exhale, quit breathing for five seconds.
  • Inhale slowly, focusing on your diaphragm. Breathe in until your lungs are full of air, from top to bottom.
  • Then breathe out even more slowly (aim for a count of 20). While you do this, imagine that you are breathing in relaxation that is filling your body from head to toe.
  • Keep doing this, concentrating on the out-breath that will calm everything down.
  • Panic is associated with short, fast, shallow breaths; anger with long, forced breaths; calmness with slow, steady breaths; happiness with long inhalations and exhalations.


2Keep your head up.Literally. If you were told there was a depressed person in the next room, what would you imagine? Are they sitting in the corner, slumped over, with a lost look on their face? Are they not moving much? Probably. Moods manifest physically — change your physicality, change your mood.

  • Confident, happy people walk with their shoulders back and their heads high. Do they make a conscious decision to do this? No. It’s all wired together. So get up, look up, and move around — your mind will start listening to your body and not the other way around.
  • Think about working out. How often do you hear of someone going for a run to help their bad mood? All the time. Again, let your body do the talking. The endorphin rush will blast that mood away.


3 Go for a walk.Alright, that’s sort of metaphorical. But what that means is to control an emotion, control your environment. Get out and do something else. If you feel yourself festering, get up and surround yourself with different stimuli. You’re literally forcing your brain to take in distractions.

  • You initially won’t want to do anything else. It’ll feel good to sit and consume yourself with whatever is making you sad or angry. Hate to break it to you, but you can’t do that. Pick up the phone and call a friend, put on some upbeat music, or simply go run errands. Be your own source of distraction.
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    4 Meditate. For a long time, meditation has been known to quiet the outside world and calm the senses. It clears your mind and helps attention and focus even when you’re not meditating. But it also quiets negative thoughts and centers you externally, not internally.

    • In other words, your stream of consciousness gets removed from the “me” and placed outwardly. Scientific studies involving brain imaging and MRIs show that expert meditators cease thinking about themselves and are less likely to get wrapped up in emotion, at all hours of the day.
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      5 Start the day in a positive way. Nobody wakes up and thinks, “Today I’m going to have a really awful day.” Most people wake up and don’t even think about the day ahead. Try this: “Today is going to be a good day!” This way, you start the day having a positive outlook on life.

      • Try being as nice and positive to everybody and set yourself simple little tasks during the day. For example, “Today, I shall eat five pieces of healthy fruit or vegetables” or “I shall smile at that boy or girl I have liked for ages.” Meeting your goals — even if they’re tiny — can give you a sense of fulfillment and, better yet, control.


      6Talk about how you feel. The best way to solve something that’s upsetting you is talking to someone, even if it’s your dog. Talking about things helps to make things clearer and tends to help your brain sort out situations.

      • Sometimes, when we talk to others, we finally realize just how ridiculous we’re being. Repeating the story gives it a tangibility it didn’t have in this world and sets it up against real, bigger problems. Suddenly your boyfriend dumping you doesn’t seem so bad compared to your friend’s dad having cancer.
      • Method 2 of 3: The Thinking


        1 Look ahead. Often, when we’re emotional, we’ve become ungrounded. We’ve lost a sense of reality and we’re entirely consumed by the moment. Because of that, we forget that the future exists and we forget that we know the future will be different. So ask yourself, “Where will my anger be tomorrow? In a week? In a month?” It’ll help you realize just how ephemeral your emotions truly are.

        • Everyone does things they later regret (that can have grave implications) simply because, for a time, we humans let ourselves be dictated by our own emotion. If you find yourself getting angry, think about how you’ll feel tomorrow if you handle it poorly today. If anxiety is the problem, think about the future. How small will this event seem 6 months down the road? Look past “right now” and you’ll see the forest through the trees and calm down, however you’re feeling.


        2 Change the story. That is to say, think about your perception. You are in a situation that you’ve interpreted; all you have to do is interpret it differently. Tell yourself a different story (after all, it’s all in your head) and you’ll automatically generate a different emotional response.[4] “Reality” is malleable. Change that to change your response.

        • Let’s say you’re getting into a heated exchange of words with an acquaintance of yours at a bar. There’s a bit of alcohol involved and no one seems to be making commendable decisions. All of a sudden he starts insulting your mom. Seriously? For a few seconds, your right fist seems to be drawn like a magnet to something behind you, but then you remember: this guy’s never met your mother and your mother has nothing to do with you — his logic is ridiculously flawed. Should you really hit a dumb guy? Aww. Mom jokes. How quaint and not at all clever. You decide to give him the website of a local improve group instead.
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          3Put your emotions into a “box.” This theory states that whenever you get sad or angry, etc., make an imaginary box and visualize your emotions going into it and the lid being closed. The emotions then are not accessible.

        • Once they’re in the box, blow it up. Just blow it up with your brain and they’re gone. Use your imagination as a defense. You and only you have the ability to choose your thoughts — and those negative ones are gone.
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          4 Feed the other tiger. More metaphors, obviously. Take in this story: “Once there lived an old man who kept all different kinds of animals. But his grandson was particularly intrigued by two tigers that lived together in one cage. The tigers had different temperaments; one was calm and self-controlled whilst the other was unpredictable, aggressive, violent, and vicious. “Do they ever fight, Grandfather?” asked the young boy. “Occasionally, yes they do,” admitted the old man. “And which one wins?” “Well, that depends on which one I feed the most.

          • Get it? Those tigers are you — they’re both you. Start thinking of yourself in two parts — the one that acts on animal instinct and the one that knows better. The beauty of being human is that we can monitor ourselves and successfully at that. When you realize that your emotions are not you, you’ll be able to act with wider perception and more logically.
          • Method 3 of 3: The Background Knowledge

            1 Know that it’s possible. Let’s get this sorted first thing: emotional control exists. Just ask the staff at University College London. In a recent study, an area of the brain that used to be thought of as designated for control of movement is now regarded as a center for control of emotional responses.

            • In most previous studies on this topic, participants were told to either feel or inhibit a certain emotional response. However, these studies didn’t correlate in the real world — after all, we are rarely blatantly told to suppress our emotions. We get to decide for ourselves in processes unbeknownst to us whether to feel or not feel. And new studies are showing that people can do just that; the participants in this study at UCL made their own decisions and controlled their emotions at will.
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              2 Get to know yourself. It may sound a bit silly or even ridiculous, but remove yourself from you. Notice the patterns your emotions take; try to be cognizant of what sets you off. You’ll find a sense of self-honesty that can answer a lot of your questions.

              • If you catch yourself feeling unexpectedly strongly about something, ask yourself why. Is it really because Bob got a new iPhone? What’s the crux of the issue? What about you told you it was reasonable to react how you did? How do you feel you should react? Why is that preferable?


              3 Think about your emotional health. Everybody is human — frankly put, emotions are inevitable; in fact, they’re healthy. For thousands of years, they’ve kept us alive and, to a point, they do still. We all have needs and for us to be happy, they need to be met. If you are discontent currently, why? To be emotionally healthy, every person has to have a few basic necessities met.

              • We must feel safe and secure in our environment.
              • We need to feel we have our own territory to give us a sense of belonging.We must regularly give and receive quality, positive attention.
              • We strive to feel a sense of control over our own lives.
              • We must feel a part of a wider community.
              • We require a strong social network where we can enjoy those around us — in friendship, fun, love, and intimacy.
              • We must feel competent and secure in our role in life.
              • We need to feel challenged but not overwhelmed to avoid stagnation and boredom.
              • If one of these aspects pops out to you as not being fulfilled, what could you do to change that? What
              • activities could you pick up to change your emotional routine?


              4 Consider accepting your emotions. Alright, if they are doing you no good and you just wind up exhausted, frustrated, and crying, then yes — look into controlling them. But if you’re simply uncomfortable with them, they’re not necessarily a bad thing — in fact, they may be there for a reason.

              • Feeling sad is normal — it happens to everyone. Everyone. Crying is not only reserved for girls and emotions are not a sign of weakness. If emotions are keeping you from being happy, then take a step back. But if you’re adding undue stress onto yourself because you’re just not accepting how you feel, there’s a bigger problem. Would accepting your emotions and letting them show also solve the problem? Only you have the answer.