Celebrating World Water Day and navigating our emotions

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This month I’ve been exploring the wellbeing impact of nature in a series of articles linked to  UN sponsored days focused on the natural world.  In the first article I set out how our emotional response to nature creates changes in our biochemistry that improve our health, energise us and enable us to think more clearly.   And yesterday, I invited you to turn your attention towards the inner landscape of emotions and the vast ‘forest‘ of different emotions that you can experience.

Today is World Water Day which celebrates water and draws attention to issues of access to safe water and sanitation. I’m lucky to live in a country where water is freely available, even a source of pleasure. I am at my happiest hiking mountains in areas studded with freshwater lakes or bird watching in a wetland nature reserve. Being around places with water has a calming effect on me. Water is a key feature of both the outer environment and my inner emotional landscape that I like to spend time in.

Emotions are flowing in our biology continually – energy in each biological system is always in motion to create ‘e-motion’. You may feel anxious one minute with raised heart rate, tense shoulders, and a churning stomach and then a minute later anxiety recedes, and you flow into feeling bolder with your heart rate still up, but a firmer stance and a settled stomach.

Sometimes this can feel like emotional currents are sweeping through us and out of our control – an undertow pulls us and we feel ‘all at sea’, a riptide drags us into choppy waters or we end up stuck in an emotional whirlpool.

Often, we blame others for the emotions flowing inside us, “You made me angry!”. When we do this, we imply others are somehow inside our biology causing the energy to flow a certain way. But nobody has come up to us with a syringe full of ‘anger’ and injected it into us.

The truth is we are creating the biology inside us – we are not victims we are creators! And with a little practice we can create the emotions we want to feel – we can take ownership of our emotional currents and tides. We can choose our emotional response rather than just reacting.

So, how can you swim from one emotion to another rather than be swept along by tides or buffeted by others’ attempts to manipulate us?

If you’ve been following this series of articles, then you may have started to notice more emotions in your day-to-day experience – you may even have become more literate and increased your emotional repertoire. This is an essential step to enable navigational capability. If you want to sail the emotional ‘ocean’, then you need to have a sense of the map you are moving through. When you have a set of familiar locations on the map, it becomes easier to flow to them and set anchor in an emotion that is more helpful for the situation you are facing.

If you still need to put some more anchor points on the map, try keeping an emotions diary for a day or two. During the day note down in the margins of your notebook the emotions you experience. Or take ten minutes out of your day to note down all the emotions you felt in the previous 24 hours. You could also use our Complete App [link here] with more than 2,000 emotions already mapped to log and track your emotional ‘heat map’ over time.

The more emotional anchor points you have, the more choices in your emotional response. If you keep exploring your inner emotional landscape and visiting the places you’ve mapped, the anchors become stronger with a current of their own that can pull you in as you get near them.

The natural world, full of wildlife, forests, and water, is a wonderful stimulus for emotional responses and has a direct impact on our wellbeing. As we explore the natural environment and notice the response in our inner emotional landscape, we can come to appreciate it even more. We depend on the natural world for some of our most basic needs – food, shelter, water – and for our health and prosperity.

I hope that by encouraging you to deepen your appreciation for nature, and to feel it’s impact on you, that it awakens a desire in you to cherish and protect it for all of us.

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