If you have been on social media recently, you may have noticed terms like #gratitude, #wellness and #selflove have surged in popularity.
The importance of mindfulness and mental health for one’s overall wellbeing is more widely recognised than ever, but knowing where to begin this journey can be difficult.
In her book, The Kindness Coach, Dr Sarah Jane Arnold outlines the NAV (Name, Accept and Validate) technique, which is a simple yet effective tool to help people respond to difficult emotions with kindness rather than judgement.
The technique can reduce the impact of these emotions, empower you to view them with kindness and understanding, and ultimately lead you to increased self-compassion, awareness and wellbeing.
Here’s how you can apply the NAV technique in three easy steps to manage difficult emotions:
1. Name what you’re feeling
Naming your emotions, ideally with one word, is a great way to recognise what you are feeling and why.
It’s easy to lose touch with our emotions when we are busy with the demands of life, so getting into the habit of acknowledging and naming your feelings can be a great way to reconnect with yourself and identify what your needs are in that moment.
Emotions communicate important information about our experiences, so try to get into the habit of noticing them with appreciation and curiosity.
2. Accept what you’re feeling
Once you have named your emotions, the next step is to practice acceptance of whatever you are feeling. This is more difficult than it sounds, particularly when experiencing negative emotions.
It’s important to remember that acceptance does not mean you enjoy experiencing that feeling. Acceptance is about understanding that this emotion exists for you right now, without resisting, ignoring or trying to fight against it.
This step is important because trying to avoid or struggle against unpleasant emotions often has the opposite effect. For example, trying to force yourself out of a period of sadness may cause additional negative feelings such as frustration about your sadness, which increases your stress response and negatively impacts your wellbeing.
Taking judgement out of your emotional experience can prevent this downward spiral and empower you to handle emotional ups and downs with more ease.
3. Validate what you’re feeling
In a world where we are constantly exposed to photoshopped, filtered and selectively chosen images of other people’s lives, it can be easy to admonish ourselves for having bad days or negative feelings.
Validating your emotions means giving yourself permission to have difficult emotional experiences, and reassuring yourself that it is a normal and essential part of the human experience.
Even if you don’t understand why you are feeling this way yet, giving yourself the validation that what you feel is real and important can reduce the intensity of those emotions and help protect your mental health long term.
Put the NAV technique into practice
The NAV technique seems simple, but most people will experience their own barriers to one or more steps in the process.
For example, if you grew up in an environment where you were expected to present a happy exterior to the world regardless of what you were feeling inside, you may find accepting and validating negative emotions takes some practice. This is perfectly normal as you gradually change your response to negative emotional experiences.
People often respond to these feelings with judgement, berating themselves for being upset while others face seemingly greater challenges.
The NAV technique can help you respond with kindness and acceptance, and assure yourself that it’s okay to experience pain and struggle, and that your feelings about your situation are valid and important.
The NAV technique is not a miracle cure for any difficult experience in your life, however with ongoing practice you may be surprised at its effects on your emotional wellbeing and your compassion towards yourself and others.