In the journey of understanding and managing our emotions, one concept that often arises is the idea of “sitting with your emotions.” But what does this really mean, and how can it help us navigate the complex landscape of our feelings? In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of sitting with your emotions and why it’s an essential skill for emotional well-being. We’ll also debunk the myth that you have to endure your emotions for extended periods, emphasizing that they typically last only 60–90 seconds.
What Does It Mean to “Sit with Your Emotions”?
“Sitting with your emotions” is a term often used in therapy and mindfulness practices. It refers to the process of acknowledging and experiencing your emotions without immediately reacting to or suppressing them. It’s about allowing your emotions to flow through you, just like passing clouds in the sky, without judgment or resistance.
The 60–90 Second Rule: Emotions Have a Natural Lifespan
One crucial aspect of sitting with your emotions is understanding that emotions have a natural lifespan of approximately 60–90 seconds. This might come as a surprise, especially if you’ve experienced intense emotions that seemed to last much longer. However, this rule is grounded in neuroscience and psychology.
Research suggests that when we experience an emotion, the physiological response in our bodies, including the release of stress hormones, typically peaks within 20–30 seconds. After that, if we don’t fuel the emotion with our thoughts, it naturally subsides. The remaining time is often spent either suppressing the emotion or attaching it to stories, which can extend its duration significantly.
Why Do Emotions Last Longer Than 60–90 Seconds for Some People?
Emotions can persist beyond their natural lifespan for various reasons:
1. Rumination: When we keep thinking about the trigger or the emotion itself, we essentially “feed” the emotion, causing it to last longer. For example, if you continuously replay a distressing event in your mind, you’re reinforcing the emotional response.
2. Avoidance and Suppression: Attempting to push away or ignore an emotion can lead to it lingering beneath the surface. Emotions often resurface when we least expect them, causing surprise or discomfort.
3. Attachment to Stories: As humans, we tend to attach meaning and narratives to our emotions. These stories can keep the emotions alive as we ruminate on them. For instance, feeling anger because you believe someone disrespected you might make the anger last longer.
The Art of Sitting with Your Emotions
Sitting with your emotions doesn’t mean you have to endure them for hours at a time. It means allowing yourself to fully experience an emotion as it arises without judgment. Here’s how to practice it:
1. Mindfulness: Pay close attention to your emotions without trying to change or analyze them. Be present with what you’re feeling in the moment.
2. Breathe: Take slow, deep breaths to help ground yourself in the present. Focusing on your breath can reduce the intensity of emotions.
3. Observe Sensations: Notice the physical sensations associated with the emotion. Where do you feel it in your body? Describe the sensations without judgment.
4. Label the Emotion: Name the emotion you’re experiencing. Simply saying, “I feel anxious” or “I feel sad” can create some distance between you and the emotion.
5. Let It Pass: Trust that the emotion will naturally subside. Avoid feeding it with thoughts or stories.
Sitting with your emotions is a powerful practice that can help you navigate the ups and downs of life with greater resilience and self-awareness. Remember that emotions only last 60–90 seconds in their purest form, and any extended duration is often a result of our thoughts and reactions. By allowing yourself to sit with your emotions, you can build a healthier relationship with your feelings and ultimately cultivate emotional well-being. So, the next time you’re faced with a strong emotion, try sitting with it for a minute or two, and watch it gracefully pass like a fleeting cloud in the sky.