Posted by: Jo Banks
How to manage your emotions and create a calmer, happier life...
I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you how powerful your emotions are. We can experience a massive range of emotions from day to day or even hour to hour and they can range from passive emotions such as indifference to powerful emotions such as love or hate. By that standard, emotions can either be positive or negative. The difference? Positive emotions make us feel good, negative emotions make us feel bad.
What causes our emotions?
Like I’ve said in previous posts, every emotion or feeling we have starts with a thought and that thought can be positive or negative. You can’t even get out of bed in the morning without first having the thought to do so. How we think about a situation triggers our emotions and therefore how we react eg someone says something nice to us, that can elicit a feeling/emotion of joy or love (which is positive) or someone says something nasty to us which can give us a feeling/emotion of anger, upset or hurt (which is negative).
However, words are just words, that's all they are. Remember when your parents used to tell you to shout, ‘sticks and stones my break my bones but words can never harm me’ if someone was being mean to you? They were right! It’s only when we put meaning to words that they produce emotions in us.
It’s the same thing when someone does something nice for us; we often feel a nice warm feeling of happiness and even a sense of belonging. However, when someone forgets to do something or doesn’t do it to our exacting standards, we feel aggrieved and hard done to. If you think about it, it actually has nothing to do with what the person has done or not done, but it has everything to do with the meaning we put to their actions - our perception of what's going on and of the other person's intention.
So how do we stop these negative emotions? Firstly, listen to what you’re saying to yourself, if it’s negative; change it (see previous posts for how to deal with negative thoughts). If you get a negative feeling, stop it and change it into a positive one.
Secondly, put some distance between you and the problem/issue. If you feel anger rising in you, walk away (where possible). When anger starts to rise, our body sends out a shot of adrenalin, that goes back to the ‘flight or fight’ reflex we still have from our Hunter/ Gatherer days and is what prepares us to either run away from the threat or fight it. These days, however, we can’t run away from issues or fight everyone, so most of us end up with massive amounts of adrenalin coursing through our veins with nowhere for it to go. It’s those unused chemicals that cause aggression, stress and if not addressed over the long term, can cause depression.
So, what can you do if you feel that anger rising? You must remove yourself from the situation as soon as you start of notice the symptoms (it usually starts with a tight feeling in the stomach which starts to work its way up the chest). Excuse yourself immediately (even if you look a bit odd doing so, better that than other potential harming consequences) and go to the bathroom or take a walk around the block with help defuse those negative emotions.
Regular exercise is amazing way to help you gain a more balanced perspective on life and to help you manage your emotions, as it helps burn off those unwanted, unnecessary chemicals produced b the flight or fight reflex. That’s why exercise is often prescribed for sufferers of depression. It really does help.
Thirdly, manage your breathing. When we are anxious, angry or unhappy our breathing tends to be very shallow and quick. Here’s a little exercise that can really help bring some perspective back to a situation and really help to calm you down – you can do this anywhere and it really works:
Take 10 deep breaths – in and out is counted as 1 breath. These breaths must come from the stomach and not from the chest ie your stomach should extend fully on the ‘in’ breath and contract fully on the out breath – think of the breathing of a baby, they breath from their stomach’s, it’s only as we get older that we tend to breath from our chests.
By the time you get to the 6/7th breath, physiological changes happen within the body and stress release hormones are pumped into your body which calm you down. Again, that old adage, “take 10 breaths” when you’re angry is based on fact not fiction. It really works and no-one needs to know you’re doing it.
I recommend this exercise for all types of anxiety problems and situations eg before giving presentations, before interviews, when you’re feeling particularly stressed, when the kids are driving you crazy – BREATHE! Your life depends on it and we take it far too much for granted.
If you'd like help on how to manage your emotions, contact us for a free no obligation consultation about how we can help you get more in control over your life.
Visit the website for Jo Banks' first book, Thoughts Become Things now available in paperback and Kindle formats.