Expanding Your Emotional Range
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with a shout of joy. JOB 8:21 CSB
Chiropractors and physical therapists saw an increase in patients following the pandemic. You might think it was due to people putting off going into doctors’ offices during the lockdown, and some of that is true. But one physical therapist told me it was largely due to the sedentary lifestyle that far too many people fell into during that time. As employees shifted from office to remote work, trading the commute for the comfort of a couch, their bodies paid the price.
With less movement came less stretching and use of critical parts of our bodies such as tendons, ligaments, and joints. The physical therapist explained that as these parts of our bodies were used less, they lost ﬂexibility—similar to a rubber band that loses its elasticity from being in the sun too long. Over time, the rubber band can’t stretch at all. The same thing happened to many people’s bodies during the pandemic. As ﬂexibility decreased, aches and pains increased, as did pulled muscles.
What’s true for our bodies is also true for our emotions. Emotions become rigid over time if we remain stuck in them. When a person remains in a rut of certain emotions such as bitterness, regret, fear, apathy, or unforgiveness, in time, that deﬁnes the extent of their emotional range. It decreases their ﬂexibility into other emotional spaces such as peace, laughter, or gratitude.
The physical therapist said the way to overcome the negative impacts immobility had created in so many people’s bodies during the pandemic was to become mobile again. To stretch. Bend. Walk. Hike. Bike. Basically, do anything that takes you beyond that all-too-comfortable couch. And while doing those things at ﬁrst feels uncomfortable and could hurt, it’s only in routinely doing them that the tightened tendons and ligaments begin to loosen and stretch freely again.
To broaden your emotional bandwidth, you need to exercise your emotions outside of the range you normally allow yourself in. That may mean intentionally laughing more, hoping more, or even loving more. Find things or people that make you laugh and smile. Open your mouth and ask God to ﬁll it with joy. Allow yourself to feel emotions that bring you delight but may not be common to you on a regular basis. The more you do this, and expose yourself to people and experiences that promote this, the easier it will become over time.
Jesus, expand my emotional range so I feel delight, joy, laughter, and love even more regularly. Fill my mouth with laughter and my heart with happiness. Amen.