When I think about agility, I think about Michael Jordan, cruisin’ down the court, dodging defenders as if they’re standing still, bringin’ it home with a sweet tongue-out slam dunk.
I think about Roger Federer racing to the front of the net to catch a short lob, tipping his racquet at just the right angle, sending the ball careening to the back end of his opponent’s court…..all the while, making a sweat band look like the coolest piece of clothing ever.
I think about those crazy agility competitions for dogs. Seriously! Man’s best friend, just givin’ ‘er, weaving between poles and barreling through tunnels like nobody’s bid’niss! Mad skillz!
But what about the concept of emotional agility?
What if we were just as responsive and alert with our thoughts and feelings, as we are with our feet?
Susan David, a psychologist and professor at Harvard Medical School, recently came out with a fascinating book entitled Emotional Agility.
Susan argues that we live in a world that values “getting on with it,” and that all too often, we try to jump to a solution, without feeling the feels.
Emotions exist so that we can communicate with ourselves, and when we try to push negative feelings aside, they actually get amplified.
How many times have you ever gotten some bad news, only to bury it, “numb” the pain, and distract yourself with a shopping spree, an entire pizza, or just “keeping yourself busy”?
The end result? Negativity either boils over at the most inopportune moment, with the most unsuspecting of people…..or it eats away at you from the inside, affecting your outlook, attitude, mood, and health.
The best thing we can do for ourselves? Sit with our emotions. Sort them out. Do some journaling. Talk with a friend who will listen without judgment, and without offering a quick fix. Reflect on your feelings with presence and awareness.
Susan David emphasizes the importance of simply “seeing” our emotions for what they are, and she brings to light a beautiful South African greeting, “Sawubona,” which means: “I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being.”
And so it is only when we “see” our negative emotions that we can truly bring them into being, deal with them, process them, and learn from them in a way that actually enriches our lives. Through self-reflection, we are provided with the opportunity to see how our values might be slightly out of line, or we can witness a way in which we can simply alter our perspective. None of which can be done when we shove our negative feelings under the rug.
We as human beings experience a spectrum of emotions, none of which are either “bad” or “good,” and the more we come to terms with facing those emotions head on, the healthier and more fulfilled we will be.
And so how do we teach our kids to be emotionally agile? We lead by example, and teach them as best we can through words, actions, and books! Here are a few great books to get you started!
Glad Monster, Sad Monster by Ed Emberley
Glad, sad, silly, mad – monsters have all kinds of different feelings! In this innovative die-cut book, featuring a snazzy foil cover, you’ll try on funny masks as you walk through the wide range of moods all little monsters (and kids!) experience. A fun, interactive way to explore the many different ways we feel!
Millie Fierce by Jane Manning
Millie is quiet. Millie is sweet. Millie is mild. But the kids at school don’t listen to her. And she never gets a piece of birthday cake with a flower on it. And some girls from her class walk right on top of her chalk drawing and smudge it. And they don’t even say they’re sorry! So that’s when Millie decides she wants to be fierce! She frizzes out her hair, sharpens her nails and runs around like a wild thing. But she soon realizes that being fierce isn’t the best way to get noticed either, especially when it makes you turn mean. So Millie decides to be nice–but to keep a little of that fierce backbone hidden inside her. In case she ever needs it again.
The Great Big Book of Feelings by Mary Hoffman
The book opens with the question: “How are you feeling today?” And this leads on to a spread by spread presentation of a wide range of feelings, including: *Happy * Sad * Excited * Bored * Interested * Angry * Upset * Calm * Silly * Lonely * Scared * Safe *Embarrassed * Shy * Confident * Worried * Jealous * Satisfied. The final spread is about Feeling Better because sharing and talking about feelings helps us to feel better.
There Are No Animals In This Book (Only Feelings) by Chani Sanchez
In this gorgeous, ground-breaking book, masterworks of contemporary art teach children about their feelings and how they can be expressed through art. The bold work of contemporary artists is totally accessible to small children. In these images children will recognise love, surprise, hurt, and other powerful feelings. Images are accompanied by a fun-to-read aloud narrative with a silly twist at the end that is sure to delight younger readers. Parents can enjoy the art as well as the opportunity to engage their children in a light-hearted discussion of feelings.
The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
All quiet is not created equal. In this irresistibly charming picture book, many different quiet moments are captured, from the anticipation-heavy “Top of the roller coaster quiet” to the shocked-into-silence “First look at your new hairstyle quiet.” The impossibly sweet bears, rabbits, fish, birds, and iguanas are all rendered in soft pencils and coloured digitally, and, as in all of the best picture books, the illustrations propel the story far beyond the words.
— Lindsay Schluter