Daily Movements is a framework for forming your regular habits to nurture your whole self: heart, soul, mind, and strength. You can read more about this in the introduction.
The first of the daily movements to engage with is the Heart.
As I’m describing the heart, I’m not describing the organ that sustains your life. I’m speaking of the metaphorical heart — what is often considered to be the seat of your emotions.
I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality inventory a few times in my life, and though I’ve seen a few of the categories shift at times, I’ve always scored as a thinker over a feeler. Those who know me wouldn’t argue this. I’m usually reserved in self-expression, and often a calming personality even in chaotic situations.
But as I’ve aged, er, matured, I’ve come to recognize that I don’t lack emotions. They may not evident to others, and they often aren’t evident to me unless I’m attentive to what is going on inside.
Whether you identify primarily as a thinker or a feeler, daily habits that engage your emotions are important. Our emotional health has a significant impact on our whole self, influencing areas such as our relational and physical health too.
Here are a few examples of daily habits to acknowledge emotions and how they might be affecting you:
I’ve had an on and off relationship with morning pages since I first read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron about 15 years ago. Of late, though, the relationship has been more on than off.
I start almost every day by trying to write at least 500 words with no guidelines other than moving the cursor. Julia Cameron suggests handwriting 3 pages, but typing affords me to chance to keep up with my brain. Over time in practicing this, I’ve discovered that it surfaces a resistance to emotions I sometimes didn’t want to engage. But in recent years, I’ve found it’s helpful to put names to the feelings formed by what I’m thinking about and reflecting on.
The gratitude journal has become more popular in recent years, though it’s not a habit I’ve taken on myself. Those who do practice regularly find it very helpful, at least according to my very unscientific polling.
The idea is to make a list every day of the things you are grateful for, with benefits to both your mental and emotional health. Of course, this doesn’t fully engage emotions that might be considered more negative, but that might be why it’s the right practice for some to consider.
The Prayer of Examen
A longstanding Christian practice that is attentive to emotions is the prayer of examen, originally developed by St Ignatius.
There are many variants of this prayer, but it is formed around thoughtfully reviewing the day and talking it over with the Spirit for the sake of awareness and growth. This reflection isn’t only rooted in the activities of the day, but also weighing the emotions one carried throughout the day.
This practice (like many) might span across multiple ‘categories’ of the daily movements. But, it’s worth noting that mystical prayers that engage emotions have been central to some expressions of Christian faith for centuries.
We identify emotions with the heart, but scientifically, we understand they are more a function of our nervous system. To perhaps oversimplify, hormones are triggered in our thinking patterns and felt throughout the body.
As neuroscientists say, “neurons that fire together, wire together”. That is to say, we can get into a groove (or perhaps a rut) with our emotions as feeling something over and over makes it easier to continue feeling it. Healthy daily movements of the heart, that is our emotions, will leads us to better relational and physical health.