Could getting to know our emotions be the key to better mental health?

Could taking the time to learn about and understand our emotions help us to take care of our mental health? Stylist sat down with Courtney Carlsson, founder of the new mental health app Paradym, to find out more.

If there’s one thing we’ve all been forced to do during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s to sit with our emotions. Having to stay home, isolate from friends and family and fore-go all of the little distractions which populated our pre-pandemic lives left us with plenty of time to think about how we were really feeling.

Add to that the fact that the pandemic thrust us into a situation none of us had really experienced before, and getting to know ourselves and our emotions wasn’t just a way to pass the time – it was a necessary coping mechanism to help us navigate an overwhelming and confusing period.

But sitting with our feelings and working to understand our emotions isn’t a habit we should leave in lockdown. As we navigate our ‘new normal’ and face new stresses thanks to the UK recession and ongoing climate crisis, getting to know ourselves on an emotional level could be a great way to look after our mental health. 

That’s the premise behind Paradym, a new mental health app which aims to help users to cultivate their emotional identity – an evidence-informed approach to mental wellbeing which helps people to gain self-awareness when it comes to their emotions and take positive steps to regulate and understand their reactions.

Intrigued? We sat down with Paradym’s founder Courtney Carlsson to find out more about how the app works, and how getting to know our emotions can be a powerful tool in looking after our mental health.

What is emotional identity, and how does it work?

Many of us assume that our emotions are simply by-products of the situations we find ourselves in. But according to Carlsson, our emotions are actually much more predictable than we might think – and getting to know our emotional patterns is a great first step in understanding how our minds work.

“Our emotions actually act like a compass,” Carlsson explains. “They can be incredible allies – they can really help us to understand who we are. The emotional reactions that we have to situations, people, things or behaviours form our emotional identity. And that emotional identity is fluid – we can learn more about ourselves and our emotional patterns, and in doing so we can change the ways that we react.”

“Cultivating an emotional identity is essentially knowing who we are through the lens of our feelings.”

While you might find it easy to identify when you’re feeling anxious, happy or sad, for example, getting to know your emotional identity is a little more tricky, Carlsson explains. Because many of the emotional patterns we exhibit stem from the experiences we had in childhood –you might react to failure with feelings of anxiety, for example, if you were scolded for bad performance as a child – many of us don’t even know we have emotional patterns in the first place.

“Cultivating your emotional identity is all about understanding where your emotions come from, recognising what your patterns are and how your emotions fluctuate – we help people to understand this,” Carlsson says. “The next step is choosing whether those patterns still serve you – whether they’re impacting your life in a positive or negative way.

“If they decide that that pattern doesn’t serve you anymore, we then help you to take the right steps to regulate and change your emotions by listening to yourself and your reactions.”

How does the app work?

“The app really centres around a line of questioning and reflection which mimics the process you’d go through in therapy or coaching,” Carlsson explains. “So we’ve created content around these questions, and each day takes about 10 minutes of your time. You’ll have something to listen to or read, and from a science perspective we’ll give you some info on the psychological topic we’re discussing, and then we’ll give you a story or example to help bring the topic to life.

“And then it’s all about reflection. So through those processes it’ll help you to think about your own emotional patterns, and then we have some exercises for you to complete. Everything is original content created by experts, therapists, coaches and psychologists.”

How can cultivating our emotional identity help our mental health?

When we’re experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or stress, we’re often faced with a lot of intense emotions which are difficult to regulate. By helping you to understand where those emotions might be coming from, Carlsson explains, your emotional identity gives you the resources you need to understand and tackle those negative feelings in the long run.

“By making people aware of their emotions and giving them the resources to strengthen their emotional competence, our emotional identity tools can increase wellbeing and resilience,” Carlsson adds.

What do you hope people take away from the app?

“I hope that they know themselves better, and that they’re able to live the lives they want, so they can have better relationships or are able to do a job they actually love,” Carlsson says.

“I think we’re not really taught in school, or just generally, to think about what we want our lives to look like. To question what makes us happy, what our values are and what we want to strive for. And I think Paradym creates that environment and guides you through that thought process.”

Paradym is currently free to try until September, and is available on App Store for iPhone.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there are people who can help. If your mental health is affecting your day-to-day life, or you feel unable to cope, speak to your GP. 

For more information on taking care of your mental health, you can check out NHS Every Mind Matters or visit the Mind website. For confidential support you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email [email protected]

Images: Getty

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