Gaining Access to Our Power: Moods and the Mind

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

~ Viktor Frankl ~

The Will to Meaning & Yes to Life

Did you know that we think, feel, and act, based on an order of operations?

If you’ve ever learned anything about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), then this will sound familiar. CBT and other therapies can offer strategies that help us to realize our power, and understand how the brain, mind, and body work to protect us and connect us, as a means of survival. We can harness the power of these therapies when navigating the ups and downs of life, i.e., experiences, feelings, emotions, and moods; and we can learn to slow down and observe these things, versus immediately reacting to them.

NOTE: As an aside, if you are experiencing overwhelming grief, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, or other powerful emotions, these strategies can still be helpful, however, seeking professional help may be an essential aspect of your healing. It is not always easy to do these things on our own. Knowing where our power lies, and that we do have some choice in regards to our well-being and states of health, may only be the beginning of a longer healing journey for some.

My Mood, My Choice . . . Really?

It’s hard to imagine, but at any given time, you and I are only one thought away from a good mood. Yet, we can all too often find ourselves locked in debilitating battles with our emotions. How can this contradiction be? Well, it is because we can hang on to negative emotions giving them increased power; and though not always purposefully, we can embody our emotions without even thinking.

Our emotions have a fast and furious job, they mean to protect us from harm or connect us to help, and we are meant to grow forward. Emotions are information, and they usually only last a few moments, moving us to act. Sometimes what happens, however, is our thoughts trap emotions, and instead of moving on (like clouds in the sky), they stay and become a fog of a bad mood – or worse, an illness or disorder. However, moods, rooted in lingering emotions, can be mitigated with reflection, help, and time to think about how we feel. Thinking is where we can harness our power and our ability to choose how we respond to big emotions. Calming the brain, mind, and body in this manner can impact our lives drastically.

Responding to emotions without embodying them requires the use of some tools. These tools can help us to rationalize emotions and think through our actions. The process of figuring out how to slow things down, and to cope with and manage emotions, can be hard, but it’s not impossible. In my own experience, this work is completely worth it, as we can save ourselves a great deal of pain – when we put our minds to it!

Here’s how it works: usually we are going about our day, when an event happens. If the event is not obviously safe, expected, or joyful, we can respond with a powerful protective emotional trigger: fight-flight-freeze is typical. I always tell people, these automatic neuro-chemical responses translate into the emotions of mad-sad-scared, and if they stick around, they can become anger, anxiety, or depression. I suffer from anxiety, so, from time to time, I am forced to use CBT type tools to access my critical thinking and decision-making skills and change my thoughts to change my life, literally! Once an emotion (for me a fear) passes, and I am back on-line, aka out of the emotion, I reach for different more tender emotions to help me connect, ground myself, and be well. Knowing about and accessing the inner resources of my own mind helps me to gain my power back. These tools have been an essential aspect of my own well-being and healing.

CBT tools remind me: I am experiencing an emotion; I am not the emotion itself.

Some of the tools that have worked for me are as follows:

1) being mindful and present when in an emotion;

2) observing the emotion versus embodying it;

3) allowing myself to experience the emotion as a wave or a cloud (it comes and goes);

4) paying attention to the physical elements of the emotion, and noticing how these elements (a racing heart, sweating,  nervousness, heaviness, pain in my gut, etc.) come and go; and

5) reminding myself, I am not my emotions – I am so much more.

One of the most common misconceptions about emotions and moods, is that we have little or no power over how we feel, and thus no choice in the matter either. For the most part, this simply isn’t true. Knowledge helps, and that’s why CBT type tools are full of psycho-educational components that help to teach us that we do not have to be a victim to our emotions. I wasn’t always good at this; however, therapy, proper sleep, healthy nutritious foods, movement, time in the sun, downtime, and quality time with pets or people all help to pull me out of the depths of despair. For some, medications, and other on-going therapeutic interventions and groups, can help as well.

The bottom-line, with any healing or health related strategy, is to understand emotions and experience them as they occur, but avoid acting on them, or judging them in a particular moment. Observing emotions allows for the much-needed space to think, and thinking makes choosing our response to emotions a heck of a lot easier. When we slow things down, we reduce an emotions intensity and power, and they do not have to settle in and become a mood or a state of continually being.


  • Emotions are floods of sensation aimed to protect us from harm and connect us to safety. Emotions play a very important role in our lives – they are key to our survival.
  • Emotions don’t have to have all the power – we are not our emotions and when calm we can make decisions to cope with and manage life.
  • We don’t want to push our emotions away, or hold them too close; it’s kind of like a goldilocks principle – that which we resist, persists – and yet, if we get too close to the fire, we can burn.
  • Think of emotions as information: they give us knowledge about our experiences of an event – but that’s it – we don’t have to become our emotions: welcome emotions, allow and honour the experience of them, and then, be ok letting them go.
  • If we don’t want to let go of an emotion – that’s ok too. The important thing is recognizing we have this choice. The emotion might be sticking around to communicate something important, either to us or others –  we can choose to honour emotions and choose to let them go when ready.
  • We can also focus on the positives: what did we learn from the emotion, the experience, or our reaction? How did we grow from this? What did it teach us? Etc. Each adverse situation we face and overcome builds strength and resilience.

If you are struggling with your mental health alone, The Canadian Mental Health Association offers free online and local support groups for a variety of needs; these groups can be found here:

You may also contact for direction to supports, resources, a consultation, or a referral.

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