How Meditation Helps With Emotional Regulation

How meditation can help with emotional regulation

For a lot of us, emotional regulation is something we do unconsciously. Like for example, remaining calm when a coworker makes a snarky remark about our new hobby. But for some, especially little ones, emotional regulation skills can be harder to develop.

The good news? Meditation is being linked to improving emotional regulation skills through self-awareness, boosting perspectives, and increasing self-compassion.

1. Meditation can help increase self-awareness

One of the core tenets of meditation (and emotional regulation) is self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to understand and process your emotions, thoughts, and sense of self. Like adults, kids also have self-awareness, even if it isn’t fully developed.

Researchers are now beginning to understand just how meditation and mindfulness interact with our brain to result in better emotional regulation.

One eight week study reviewed in 2016, found that a MBSR practice (mindfulness based stress reduction) could change brain structure in as little as eight weeks. This study found that brief MBSR could induce changes in the amygdala that are consistent with improved self-regulation.

Another study, found that 10 hours of IBMT (integrative body-mind training) produced changes in a region of the brain associated with cognition, emotion, and self-awareness. 

While more research is needed to fully understand these connections, the results are promising and suggest that positive changes can be made within weeks- not years. This is especially great news for young children, who haven’t had years to craft their meditation practice and who want to experience the benefits quickly.

2. Meditation improves perspectives

Perspective is another piece of the emotional regulation puzzle. And it makes sense, too. If someone views conflicts or events as much bigger deals than they are, chances are they’re going to react with a lot less control.

Perspective is essentially how we mentally frame and emotionally process things. Meditation can help practitioners view events as they are, with greater clarity. Meditation has been informally linked to improved life perspectives for centuries, and is now being formally studied. 

One study in 2019 found that Brief Mindfulness Meditation (BMM) was effective in reducing emotional reaction intensity. 

Meditation’s unique impact on reshaping and improving perspective has also, in part, led to the creation of Mindful-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). MBCT is a type of psychotherapy that utilizes both meditation and CBT to challenge negative thought patterns that can result in a wide range of psychological disorders, like anxiety and depression.

3. Increased self-compassion

Meditation is also increasingly being linked to increased self-compassion. Self-compassion can be best described as extending kindness, or a general sense of goodwill, to oneself during a period of hardship. This might look like giving yourself grace for forgetting to pack your child’s lunch the night before, or a little one being kind to themselves after not performing well at an after-school activity.

A 2019 study found that meditation and mindfulness were effective in increasing self-compassion and reducing negative rumination within a group of adults with anxiety, depression, and stress.

Similarly, a study on college students in the Philippines found that a mindfulness practice helped to boost self-compassion and empathy.

While it is not currently known which areas of the brain meditation and mindfulness are changing to result in boosted self-compassion, the link has been established.

It has been suggested that meditation allows practitioners to see themselves and events more accurately and in turn giving more accurate emotional responses.

Kids and emotional regulation

The majority of research on meditation and emotional regulation thus far has been on adults. But the results are clear: meditation and mindfulness practices can help boost emotional regulation. 

It has been theorized that children benefit from emotional regulation skills in similar ways to adults. Like any practice, meditation and mindfulness need to be presented in a way that is kid-friendly and engaging.

One thing is for sure: meditation and mindfulness, and their benefits on emotional regulation, are here to stay.

Wee Meditate

Wee Meditate has hours of meditation stories that help children better regulate their emotions. Try listening to Weasel’s Reset Button, a guided story meditation about learning how to manage big emotions. 

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