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Emotional balance is a vital ingredient for personal well-being and the health of our relationships, including the essential one we have with ourselves. Karina Stewart, master of traditional Chinese medicine and co-founder of Kamalaya in Thailand, shares with us how to cultivate and maintain a healthy emotional balance.
How we perceive and experience our lives, our reactions and responses to everyday situations, as well as our decision-making abilities, are heavily influenced by our emotional framework. In spite of this, many of us think of our emotions as less important than our intellect, and so disregard our feelings. We may not pay enough attention to our feelings, or befriend them, nor nurture them or ourselves. Many of us also suffer from the misconception that emotions are entirely out of our control and occur spontaneously in reaction to life events. Consequently, we can feel overwhelmed or at a loss. Or we learn to dread our emotions as if they are threatening intruders that can engulf us when we are vulnerable, and as a result we build a wall of avoidance in order to shield ourselves from them.
There are external factors that may cause stress, and thus stress us emotionally. Due to our fast-paced and complex lifestyle balancing family, a career and personal life, and consequent demands on the individual, it is difficult to stay connected to our own emotions. Lack of sleep and improper nutrition may also have a negative impact on how we feel. For optimal health and well-being, we have to start understanding relaxation and restoration as integral lifestyle components and really make time to implement them in our daily routine.
Immersing yourself within nature helps you become absorbed fully in the present moment, but also slows you down and helps to bring things into balance with a clear perspective. Just listen to the sounds of birds, smell the scents of plants and flowers and allow all of the senses to expand. By being fully in the moment with nature, we also become more present with ourselves.
Getting enough sleep is vital for prevention, management and treatment of various health imbalances. Nowadays it might be difficult for some of us to get a full eight hours of sleep on a regular basis, but we might want to prioritise it once we understand how important sufficient sleep is for our overall health - physically, emotionally and psychologically. Research has shown that we recover best when we go to bed between 9-10pm, allowing our body and mind to wake rested in the early morning.
It is helpful to monitor our emotions and feelings a few times each day. Take a couple of deep breaths and bring the image of a person/object to your mind’s eye. Watch as thoughts start flowing around it. Further observation will lead to the emotions and feelings flowing through you. This is just an ‘observation exercise’. You don’t have to push away or pull at those emotions.
Kamalaya's master of traditional Chinese medicine Karina Stewart shares her thoughts about emotional balance
Take around 20 minutes away from your work and gadgets to be with the people you care for your loved ones. Make a conscious effort to be present with the other person without distractions, truly connecting with them, their words, feelings and needs.
Food is also a powerful tool to balance your emotions as diet has a huge impact on our nervous system. Besides avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugar, for people with anxiety and stress conditions I always recommend drinking mulberry tea, which is high in naturally occurring ‘GABA’, a neurotransmitter that slows down the impulses on the nervous system, calms us down and promotes sleep.
Relax and rejuvenate at Kamalaya
Breathing is a great tool to bring increased balance to our emotions and nervous system. This simple breathing technique practiced 10 minutes a day helps you to isolate your body with a heightened sensory awareness. It also calms your mind and increases energy and focus.
Sit in a comfortable posture with your back erect. Gently close your eyes. Breathe normally. Do each of the following steps for 2 minutes.
1. Breathe normally and focus on the exhale. Gently close your eyes. Breathe normally.
2. Stop counting your breaths and bring attention to the sensation of the breath at your nostrils.
3. Shift attention to your belly (navel) and observe as it moves in and out with each breath.
This exercise can be practiced any time during the day.