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How is Life Tree(ting) You?: How Do I Know if I’m Flourishing?

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Ok, you’re a loyal follower of The Flourish so you know that flourishing is made up of some combination of functioning well, feeling well, and being well…but what do those things actually mean? How do I know if I’m flourishing? Is my flourishing unique to me, or do we all flourish in exactly the same ways? This month, let’s start with feelings.

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Part 1: Emotional Acceptance

Put simply, Emotional acceptance is 1) A compassionate awareness that a huge variety of emotions WILL show up in my life as I flourish, and 2) A collection of strategies to process, feel, and honor emotions as they arise.

All emotions (and even our behaviors for that matter) tell us about our needs. They tell us what our needs currently are, and to what extent they are being met. So, really, there’s no such thing as “bad” emotions. Sure, those emotions we once judged and labeled as “bad” may be painful and difficult to experience, but they also tell us something about our needs and how best to meet them. All emotions, from joy to deep grief, can be a part of a flourishing life. Often it is our pushing against or suppression of difficult emotions that makes them that much more difficult to bear.

Question: What do we do then? How do we work towards emotional acceptance? Answer: Develop our emotional granularity!

Part 2: Emotional Granularity

Emotional granularity is our ability to identify and differentiate between specific emotions with precision and detail. It involves recognizing and understanding the subtle distinctions among various emotional experiences, such as distinguishing between feelings like sadness, frustration, or disappointment. It moves well beyond the common binary judgment we place on emotions, good vs bad, and uses language to communicate the complex reality of emotions.

Why is it important to me? 

When we’ve developed our emotional granularity we are adept at pinpointing (and labeling) the specific emotions we’re experiencing, allowing us to have a greater range of how we express, and what we do with those emotions. While experiencing grief may not be “happiness,” we accept that many emotions will play a role in our well-being.

How do I develop more granularity?

  1. Learn new words for emotions! The words we use change the way we think and ultimately affect our ability to feel a fuller range of emotions. Observe your emotions without judgment. Bad and good are NOT emotions, but rather a valence or judgment we place on our emotional experiences. Emotional experiences are inherently neutral and without meaning until we process them.
  2. Talk to others about emotions. You’ll connect on a deeper level AND probably learn new ways to describe (and thus think and then feel) your emotions. 
  3. Find a guide. Seek the guidance of a mental health and well-being professional. These therapeutic environments can provide support and guidance for exploring and understanding emotions, which at times can be scary to take on solo.

Written by: Colin Campbell, ‘11, Well-Being at Stanford

Affirmations as You Work Towards Emotional Acceptance:

I accept that a variety of emotional experiences are a necessary part of a flourishing life.

  • Pleasurable ←→ Painful…..and everything in between
  • High  ←→  Low energy feelings and emotions…..and everything in between

Desirable (positive) emotions are frequently part of my life.

  • Joyful–Positive–Content-Peaceful–Satisfied–Happy–Interested in life

When difficult/undesirable (“bad”) emotions inevitably show up in my life I have a collection of strategies I can use to process the emotions, make sense of them, and compassionately feel them to the extent that serves me and honors their source. 

  • Grief–Uncertainty–Low energy–Ambivalence–Dissonance
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Stanford Resources

  • Subscribe to The Flourish! Stay up-to-date with the latest wellness tips, advice from well-being staff, programs, groups, and workshops, resources available to you, and all things to help you flourish!
  • Find Ways to Flourish The Flourish, How is Life Tree(ting) You?, April 2024: Whether you are new to flourishing, familiar with the term, or still getting a grasp on it, discover how to find and cultivate flourishing in your life.
  • Well-Being Coaching: Engage with a Well-Being coach to enhance your capacity to lead a vibrant, healthy life. These coaches can guide you in managing stress, transforming beliefs and behaviors, and building meaningful relationships. Schedule a session today!
  • Counseling and Psychological Services: CAPS offers individual visits, skills workshops, process groups, psychiatry services, community referral resources, 24/7 support, and crisis intervention. Get support today.
  • Mental Health Resources at Stanford: This website is your go-to hub for navigating the many mental health and well-being resources at Stanford. Whether you are seeking advice to establish your self-care routine, looking for ways to manage stress or mental health symptoms, tips to help a friend, someone supportive to talk to, or anything in between, professional staff and your peers are ready to support you, regardless of what point you are in your mental health and well-being journey.