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PodcastThe Culture of Emotions

The Culture of Emotions

Meditation expert Sam Snowden explains how the emotional culture of our upbringing influences our lives, and how we regulate emotions as we mature.

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Better mental health starts with Headspace

(button lightly clicking) (soft whimsical music) Headspace Studio. (light calming music) Hi everyone, it's Sam here. Welcome to Radio Headspace and to Wednesday. So I was recently studying emotion science in the context of child development, and I came upon the term emotion culture. This term refers to the norms, patterns, and habits around emotions within your family. And it has to do with how difficult emotions were handled, what emotions were safe and unsafe to express, and which emotions were considered acceptable and unacceptable. The emotion culture of our home during our upbringing has a huge influence on our lives, and how we regulate our own emotions as we get older. There were times in my home when my sadness was greeted with rejection as those around me thought I was overreacting or just choosing to focus on the negative instead of the positive in my life. I remember feeling so utterly alone in those moments, internalizing the rejection and reinforcing the narrative that something was wrong with me. Whenever I hear a parent telling a child to stop crying, my heart sinks. It's a plea to the child to turn off their emotion because the parent is uncomfortable with it or ashamed of their child's display of the emotion. We inherit certain tendencies around emotions from the emotion culture that we grew up with. Think back to how your caregivers responded to your sadness, anger, and disappointment. What feelings were safe to show and which ones did you sense were off limits? (light calming music) The good news is that as adults we have agency over the emotion culture that we wanna assert in our own homes. So here are a few ways to create a healthy, emotion, culture and home, whether you have children or not. So as always, we start with ourselves and how we relate to our own emotions. The habit of self-compassion encourages us to greet our difficult emotions with kindness, acceptance, and gentleness, while reminding ourselves that we're not alone in our experience. Research has shown that emotion, granularity or our ability to finally attune to and identify what feelings are present is one of the most helpful ways to regulate our emotions. By naming our emotions, we're helping different parts of our brain to communicate more effectively, allowing the emotion to pass more easily and quickly. One way to increase granularity for yourself and your children is to discuss emotions often, not just when difficult feelings are present. You can print out a list of emotion words and pick one a day to discuss, and we'll link a suggested word list for you in the show notes. You can use an emotion word list to think about what brings up that emotion for you, how it feels in your body, and what thoughts arise with it. When watching shows or reading books with children, you can pause to ask them what the characters may be feeling as the story or show develops....


Duration5 min

About your teachers

  • A former Buddhist monk, Andy has guided people in meditation and mindfulness for 20 years. In his mission to make these practices accessible to all, he co-created the Headspace app in 2010.

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  • Kessonga has been an acupuncturists, therapist, and meditation teacher, working to bring mindfulness to the diverse populations of the world.

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  • Rosie Acosta has studied yoga and mindfulness for more than 20 years and taught for over a decade. Rosie’s mission is to help others overcome adversity and experience radical love.

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