4 ways to connect with your core emotions and enhance your life

Web Admin 0 324 Article rating: No rating

What are our key feelings, and how can accepting them enhance our lives?

4 ways to connect with your core emotions and enhance your life

The vast spectrum of emotions can be a minefield. It can be hard to know how to express the things we’re feeling, in part because being ‘in touch’ with our own emotions doesn’t always come naturally – at least, perhaps in this day and age, when putting your feelings aside in favour of agreeableness is common practice.

The task of getting in-tune with our feelings can feel like a mammoth one, but the first step in doing so could lie in identifying our primary emotions, and going from there. The thinking varies slightly on precisely how many ‘core emotions’ we have, but one widely accepted theory from American psychologist Dr Paul Ekman presents six: sadness, happiness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust.

On his website, Dr Ekman writes: “Emotions are a process, a particular kind of automatic appraisal influenced by our evolutionary and personal past, in which we sense that something important to our welfare is occurring, and a set of psychological changes and emotional behaviors [sic] begins to deal with the situation.”

When you put it like that, it sounds quite simple. Emotions are just things that happen to us, for the ultimate purpose of survival. Even so, many of us will be familiar with the experience of being ruled by them, as much as being out of touch with them. But does it have to be that way?

Getting to the heart of it

“In my 40s, I went through a rough patch in my life, experiencing depression and panic attacks for the first time,” says Fiona McAlister, an integrative trauma-informed psychotherapist. “Out of these experiences, I learned much that lifted me from those states, and introduced new practices into my regular routine that enable me now to maintain a well-balanced emotional and physical state. Crucially, this changed mindset, my more awakened understanding, and nourishing practices have supported me to find blissful peace of mind – a peace based securely on the knowledge that I am safe, no matter what happens in my life.”

As Fiona explains, at the heart of her philosophy was the understanding of humans’ primal need for safety – when we don’t feel safe, we cannot function fully and healthily. Just like Dr Ekman explains, our emotions are there to keep us alive, to alert us to things that aren’t safe, and it’s for that reason that getting to know our core emotions, learning our individual signs, and our triggers, can set us free. For Fiona, that’s achieved with four key steps…

The six universal core emotions

An upsetting emotional state that is linked to other feelings like grief or disappointment.

Pleasant feelings that can lead to joy, fulfilment, and contentment.

An emotion designed to keep us safe, which triggers our fight-or-flight response.

When we feel frustrated or hostile.

A positive or negative emotion after experiencing something we didn’t expect.

Feelings of repulsion.

Going through changes: discover how to accept and love your postpartum body

Web Admin 0 396 Article rating: No rating

Having a baby is truly life-changing, but it can also shift our relationship with our physical selves. From our wardrobe to our own identity, we look at our bodies in a whole new way after becoming a mum. Here, we explore how to find a better relationship with your body in the postpartum period

Going through changes: discover how to accept and love your postpartum body

While everyone’s pregnancy journey is unique, for many mums-to-be it’s often a time when we feel empowered in our own skin. As we watch our bumps grow, we might marvel at just how capable the human body is (minus the morning sickness and heartburn, of course). One survey by Herbal Essences for its Pregnant Women Can campaign actually found that 65% of expectant mums feel more confident in their bodies than before they fell pregnant but, sadly, this isn’t always the way once the baby has safely arrived.

Part of this is down to societal pressure, with many mums reporting that they’re focused on ‘losing the baby weight’ soon after their child arrives. “An entourage of unrealistic post-baby pictures on social media can exacerbate feelings of dissatisfaction,” says psychotherapist Yvette Vuaran, with a survey by MoneySavingHeroes.co.uk finding that 80% of mums felt pressured to lose weight after having a baby, which, naturally, can negatively impact relationships with their bodies.

This pressure to return to their pre-baby self can leave mums struggling. Research published in the Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology revealed that mums with poor body image actually scored lower in terms of overall wellbeing, self-esteem, and even how competent they felt as a parent. So, the repercussions of this disconnect from our bodies and how they’ve adapted can be vast.

But, it doesn’t have to be this way, and, with the right support and guidance, mums can still feel confident in their own skin.

Why our bodies change after having a baby

First of all, let’s acknowledge that growing and birthing a human for nine months is a pretty huge achievement. Not only does a pregnant person’s body provide nutrients for their baby, but it physically adapts. As the baby grows and takes up more room, organs such as the liver and stomach are literally pushed upwards and displaced. Is it any wonder that this process leaves our bodies looking (and feeling) a little different?

The hormone changes that happen after childbirth also causes bodies to go through all sorts of changes – and some aren’t the most glamorous. For example, your oestrogen falls quickly, and this makes your hair shed much more obviously than usual. While those who breastfeed might notice this makes your skin feel super dry and flaky (this is because your body uses lots of water while you do it).

But it’s not just hormones that change your body; you may be dealing with physical changes too, such as stretch marks, tearing, or changes to your pelvic floor, impacting daily life. So, it’s no wonder that these differences take some time to adjust to, and while it might seem like you’re alone with these things, but the truth is you’re really not. In fact, up to 90% of first time mums will tear to some degree in vaginal Read more

Giovanna Fletcher on balancing parenthood and pursuing her passions

Web Admin 0 405 Article rating: No rating

From dispelling myths about motherhood and revealing the postnatal pressure on parents, to sharing the sanctity of self-care, bestselling author, podcaster, and actress Giovanna Fletcher has been a comforting voice of support for years. And now she’s embarking on a new challenge, following her passions and finding herself centre stage…

Giovanna Fletcher on balancing parenthood and pursuing her passions

Since Giovanna Fletcher launched her hit podcast, ‘Happy Mum, Happy Baby’, a wealth of celebrity guests, from the Princess of Wales to Fearne Cotton, have joined her for openhearted and fearlessly frank conversations about parenthood.

Based on her bestselling book of the same name, the podcast, which boasts more than 20 million downloads, aims, says Giovanna, to help new mums “feel better about themselves” – something made possible by her own natural warmth and openness about her experience of raising her sons Buzz, 8, Buddy, 6, and Max, 4.

And Giovanna has no plans to take a breather from podcasting, because she understands that for some women, her support could mean the difference between life and death.

“The leading cause of death in new mums within the first postnatal year is suicide,” says Giovanna. “Well, let’s have those chats, let’s get people talking so they know they’re not on their own, let’s be that hand in the dark for people when they feel like they aren’t valued and not enough, because they absolutely are enough.

Giovanna Fletcher on balancing parenthood and pursuing her passions

“The more that we can dispel the myth that there’s a right way to do motherhood and that you can fail in it, the better.”

Speaking from her new home in Hertfordshire, against a backdrop of framed pictures including one, which reads ‘Yo Mama You’ve Got This’, Giovanna makes no secret of the fact that, at times, juggling a busy, evolving career and raising her boys with her McFly musician partner, Tom Fletcher, can feel overwhelming, but she says organisation is her key to “self-care” because it avoids her “flapping” around in the morning. Vitally, she accepts that occasional mistakes are par for the course.

“Angela Scanlon once told me that we’ve all got balls flying in the air. Some are glass, and some are plastic. We have to keep the glass balls in the air because they’re precious – that’s family – but we have to allow the plastic balls to drop every now and then,” says Giovanna.

“I’ll let the class WhatsApp slide for a week and then have an ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going on? What have I forgotten? Sorry kids!’ moment.”

Numerous studies show that in heterosexual relationships, women are responsible for the lion’s share of childcare and housework, and perform far more cognitive and emotional labour than men. Research from Arizona State University also reveals that almost 90% of mothers in committed partnerships say this responsibility leaves them feeling overwhelmed, ex

Feeling burnt out? Here’s how joy could make all the difference

Web Admin 0 377 Article rating: No rating

Whether you want to prevent burnout or recover from it, resilience is essential – but did you know joy could be the secret to building it?

Feeling burnt out? Here’s how joy could make all the difference

In the summer of 2020, I burnt out. I was running a side business alongside my job here at Happiful and, compounded by pandemic stress, it all got too much. I pressed pause on my business, and used the extra time to prioritise rest and joy. I slept in, started drawing, read more fiction, and watched films that inspired me. I filled my cup and, in time, I found my way back to me.

But the me I found was different. I had a new perspective, and realised how important joy was in having a fulfilled life and, ever since, I’ve been making decisions that prioritise cultivating joy. Now, this wasn’t a truly conscious decision at the time. I was simply exhausted and needed a break. But I’ve now learnt that joy may actually be what we all need to help build resilience, and overcome burnout.

To really get to grips with this concept then, it’s best to start with the basics and ask: what exactly is burnout?

“Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion brought on by excessive and prolonged periods of unmanaged stress,” explains positive psychology practitioner and joy coach Sophie Cliff.

“The World Health Organisation categorises burnout as having three distinct symptoms – depleted energy and exhaustion (always feeling tired, no matter how much you rest), feelings of negativity and cynicism (struggling to find the silver linings, or feeling like nothing you do will make a difference), and reduced performance (struggling to achieve at the same level as you might have done in the past).”

Sound familiar? While the World Health Organisation typically sees burnout as purely work-related, many of us now recognise that burnout can be caused by a range of issues, from parental burnout to autistic burnout.

A common thread through all types of burnout is the way it makes us feel: exhausted, frozen, and unsure of how to keep going. Something that can help us move forward is that oh-so-elusive resilience. Often viewed as our ability to ‘bounce back’, resilience isn’t about ignoring what’s happening and simply pushing through. It’s about giving space to your feelings, acknowledging them, and doing what you need to feel better.

“Resilience can take different forms,” Sophie says. “For some people, it will look like bouncing back to old routines quickly following adversity, while for others it might be having the ability to start over and adapt to a new normal following a period of stress.”

Interestingly, Sophie notes that joy can help us cultivate resilience in a number of ways.

“Firstly, research shows that experiencing and focusing on little moments of joy helps our bodies recover from the physiological effects of stress. Joy can also give our lives a sense of meaning and purpose, which, in turn, boosts our capacity to deal with challenges and bounce back from adversity.”

The fact that joy can give our lives a sense of meaning is something I can attest to. When I burned out, I felt lost and unanchored. And when I focused on doing things that made me happy, including starting a brand new hobby (drawing), I broadened my vision of what it means to liv

5 ways to turn feelings of anger into empowerment

Web Admin 0 362 Article rating: No rating

Feeling stuck? Releasing rage could be the key to clarity and empowerment

5 ways to turn feelings of anger into empowerment

When Jenny* began counselling, she felt stuck. She used to know what she wanted from life, but now found herself feeling lost and unsure of herself. Mike* entered therapy with an anxiety that kept him up at night. During the day, he felt invisible, overworked, and teetered on the edge of burnout. Samira* had a sense of hopelessness about the world. She often talked about oppressive social systems that left her with fewer opportunities than her husband, but felt as though there was nothing she could do about her future.

All of these clients came to therapy with different symptoms, histories, and relationships. What they had in common was that concealed anger was underlying their presenting issues. They each wanted to feel more alive, empowered, and capable of living the lives they wanted. Perhaps surprisingly, the key to this is learning how to access and use anger to solve our problems and achieve empowerment.

What is anger?

Anger is a natural and appropriate emotional response to something external that is in conflict with our personal values. It arises when our boundaries have been crossed, when someone does something we disagree with, or treats us in a way we dislike. Anger is a powerful sign that our needs are not being met.

Yet, anger is perhaps the most misunderstood and frequently denied emotion. I hear many clients make statements such as “I’m not really an angry person,” suggesting a cultural misperception that feeling anger is a fixed and inescapable part of our identity, rather than a transient emotional experience.

In reality, if we acknowledge anger and express it appropriately, it will resolve, like any other emotion. It is actually when we disavow anger that it becomes detrimental to our wellbeing.

Why do we push anger away?

Expressing anger often involves confrontation with others. If we are in any doubt that the relationship can withstand such a rupture, denying our anger becomes a way to avoid relationship breakdown. In the moment, it seems far simpler and less frightening to pretend we are not angry, so we turn anger inward, hoping it will subside. However, this only internalises the conflict; creating anxiety, low mood and a sense of being stuck.

5 ways to turn feelings of anger into empowerment

What is the difference between anger and violence?

Another reason anger is denied, particularly in men, is because it is confused with violence. However, whereas anger motivates us to problem-solve, violence is actually a passive behaviour. When people are unable to express anger in a safe, healthy, and productive way, they are more likely to discharge angry energy with violence. This may feel like a temporary release, but it fails to address the problem which created the anger in the first place. Expressing anger healthily is about active problem-solving, not violence.

How can we recognise repressed anger?

Anger is a powerful emotion that, when left unexpressed, takes up a lot of energy. Physically, it can leave us feeling drained and exhausted, but sleep does not help, because anger is not relieved by rest. Restoring our capacity requires an appropriate release of the pent-up angry energy.

Clues that ang