Life hacking my emotions

by Marco Weening

I’m turning 30 next year and I’ve been reflecting on what this last decade has been about.

There is a lot I’ve learned, but one of the main themes has been about learning to embrace and manage my emotions.

Solomon said that our heart is the wellspring of life. (Pv. 4:23) I got freedom from depression in my early 20’s and ever since then I’ve been learning to manage my emotional life.

Over the years, I’ve implemented several ‘life-hacks’ to partner with God in my emotional freedom. This is what I do.

1. Gratitude shapes my emotions

Every night before I go to bed, I thank God for five things in my day. Simple things or profound moments.

I thank Him for a good conversation with a colleague, I thank Him for a productive day or an amazing ministry moment.

I’ve learned this cultivates joy in my heart and my emotions eventually catch up to the idea that my life isn’t so bad, that God is good and that He is present in my every day.

On a bad day I thank God for ten things. The reality is that God is faithful, I want my emotions to catch up to that reality.

2. I take ‘mental holidays’

In other words, I give myself process free days.

Especially after a busy period, when I’m home alone resting. This is the time where my emotions can play catch up with me and lies start rolling in.

I totally believe in processing my emotions and giving it due time. However with my personality that never stops and it can become melancholic.

That’s why I give myself permission not to process for a whole day. I give myself an allowance to just enjoy the day and not having to perform for work or myself.

Netflix is fine, I can laugh at my own jokes and I won’t go digging into my own soul. Tomorrow I will be much more rested and I can stop and reflect on the last period.

3. I stop when something is off in my emotions

When I’m short with people, more direct than normal or have compassion fatigue, I stop and take stock. I’ve learned to recognise a proverbial disturbance in the emotional force.

Most often this happens when I come home from work and have a pause moment in my day.

I just track back different events in my day and figure out where I lost my peace. Was it a conversation, a moment of perceived rejection or maybe a mistake I made?

I go back and repent (change my perspective) on the matter and embrace God’s perspective. Most often this is a moment where fear has creeped in.

Keep short accounts and go to God quickly. This is a great way to learn to recognise your emotions.

4. Strength comes in the waiting

Often when I’m emotionally struggling it’s because I have an unfulfilled desire. It’s the waiting game in life that can empty my emotional tank quicker than anything else.

I remind myself that the longer I have to wait, the bigger is the reward. There is nothing that gives me more strength than learning how to wait on God.

Waiting for a promotion, recognition, a spouse or my next encounter with God.

Jairus had to wait. His daughter was dying (can you imagine it?) and Jesus turned around and dealt with the woman with the issue of blood. When Jesus was finished, Jairus daughter was dead. Was it worth waiting? Definitely, because in the end the family experienced resurrection power and they were in awe with God.

Seems like a good result to me. Remind yourself continually that waiting is producing more fruit in you than success.

5. Change your language

Life flows from words. Your tongue can steer your life. God spoke and He created. We do the same as image bearers.

I changed my language from “I can’t wait” to “I’m looking forward to”

“I have a bad memory” to “I bless my memory”

“Why would God use me?” to “Why wouldn’t God use me?”

“Nothing is ever going to change” to “Nothing is impossible with God”

“That’s just my personality” to “Thank you God for changing me”

“I’m nervous” to “I’m excited”

6. Saying no to yourself is a virtue, not just a discipline

I’ve learned that grace doesn’t only forgive, it also enables. This means I’m not a victim to my emotions, I’m an overcomer.

I master my emotions, not the other way around.

There are moments where I’m scared or really nervous. For example before I’m about to speak in front of a large group of people. In that moment I tell my emotions: ‘This is not the time, I’ll process later’

I’ve found that proving to myself that I do have self-control has given me extraordinary amounts of confidence.

It means I’m the boss of me. When I say no, it’s no.

No is not just a discipline or boundary anymore, it’s exciting. It’s a fruit of God at work in me and it’s setting me up for success.


What about you?

What have you done to cultivate your heart? Let me know in the comments.