An Emotional Revolution

*This blog appeared on Born This Way Foundation's site, here

It has only been a few weeks since the Emotion Revolution and I am still shaking from a discussion I had with Lady Gaga and Soledad O’Brien. Let me take a few steps back:

I was at the Emotion Revolution  as a Youth Advisor to Born This Way Foundation. The foundation is working to shine a light on important, yet stigmatized subjects: emotional and mental health. At the Emotion Revolution, Gaga said she wanted “to explode the conversation” about emotions-- that is exactly what she did. The weekend began by learning more about the story behind the foundation. Lady Gaga and her mom, Cynthia Germonatta, were honest and bold when sharing their story. The foundation was started so no child is told they are “just being dramatic” or should “toughen up” when battling negative emotions. I was deeply moved by Lady Gaga’s words; she is a fearless, passionate woman and her genuine character is something I will remember forever. I am humbled that I was able to be a part of her vision. This summer, I worked with Facebook and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to develop InspirED. InspirED is an emotional health curriculum that directly addresses the findings of a Yale survey. The survey found alarming disparities between the way students currently feel and they way students want to feel in school. Specifically, “When asked how they currently feel in school, out of all the words respondents listed, approximately 75% were negative. The most common words these students used to describe their current emotions at school are ‘Tired’ (39%), ‘Stressed’ (29%), and ‘Bored’ (26%). When asked how they WANT to feel in school the top three emotions that students want to experience more of are ‘Happy,’ Energized,’ and ‘Excited.’”

Later during the closing session, I was on a panel discussion with Lady Gaga, moderated by Soledad O’Brien. The discussion was in response to what we learned at the Emotion Revolution and a recent study by the American Psychological Association. The study found that for the first time ever, the stress levels of teens are higher than the stress levels of adults. The discussion can be watched here:   (1:20:00) 

Here is what resonates with me:

  1. Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health.  
  2. Battling emotions is a silent struggle; often times it is isolating. What I learned at the Emotion Revolution is that there are other people who are battling their emotions.  There are resources to get help. We are not alone!
  3. “Self-care is not selfish.” We deserve the same compassion for ourselves, as we give to others. 
  4. Learn to say, “no.” Our decisions and actions are our vote. Say “yes” to things that promote emotional health and happiness. Say “no” to the things that promote stress. 
  5. Sometimes the small things can cause us immense stress; but the accumulation of small acts of kindness can inspire happiness. Give a few more compliments, tell someone you care about them, or pay it forward- small acts of kindness are easy and can promote the happiness of those around us.
  6. “How are you?” is a powerful question that I am still learning how to respond to. Don’t have a knee-jerk response such as, “I’m fine.” When asked that question, pause and truly assess your emotions. If you are feeling inspired, say “I am feeling inspired right now!” If you are feeling sad, be brave and do not be afraid to say, “Actually I’m feeling sad right now, but I think I could feel inspired if you help me.”

Let's start an emotion revolution-- explode the conversation about emotional health.