If we understand the mechanism by which our reactions work, life definitely becomes easier. All emotions lead to action, and they are what create life as it is. Therefore, unpleasant reactions should not be suppressed – ignoring them leads to stress and increased anxiety.
The ability to control feelings is an option that can be developed as skills and habits. Of course, you can’t achieve 100% control over what happens. But it’s definitely possible to control the meaning you give to each event.
How Feelings Control Thinking
The limbic system, the part of the brain responsible for emotions, is one of the oldest compared to our prefrontal “thinking” cortex. It’s a strong part of the brain, so it seems that emotions control us and at times take over our thinking. The emotional part of the average person’s brain is more than six billion times more active than the prefrontal cortex.
It’s All About Meaning
Many things cannot be influenced in any way. But we can control the meanings we give them. The meaning we put into each event is a way of either accepting responsibility or giving up control over life. Imagine that you invited friends to the cottage – to have a barbecue, gamble at casinochan.com/en-CA, swim in the river and sunbathe. No sooner had the guests arrived, it started pouring rain and turned cold. You sincerely wanted to have the perfect wonderful day for your loved ones and you feel deeply unhappy because life doesn’t live up to your expectations. Wait. Are friends unhappy? They’re not. They are happy because they didn’t expect perfect weather: they knew they were going to visit and have a great time socializing with you. But by assigning a negative meaning to the situation, you allowed unpleasant emotions to take over. By allowing this scenario to happen, you are allowing circumstances to happen to you, not for you. If you are going to manage your emotions, understand that they are only your emotions.
Acknowledging Your Emotions
The first step to coping is to acknowledge your current attitude toward the situation. It is important to listen to yourself and understand how acutely you are reacting to the problem. There are times when several emotions arise at once that can affect the decision you are making. Accepting what you’re really experiencing helps you make sense of what’s going on in the moment and get the best results. And it also helps you become aware of and fixate on emotions, i.e., it teaches you to pay attention to your reactions in principle.
Awareness. Reason. Solution. Reaction
If you don’t notice that you’re overreacting, you can’t control it. Start tracking emotions and giving them names. Sometimes we have a hard time identifying what we are feeling. If we give a name to that feeling, it will be easier to identify it.
Once you have identified exactly what you are feeling, you need to identify the cause of that feeling. Ask yourself: “What is wrong? What makes me feel this way? Is there another explanation for how I feel? What can I do about it? How can I deal with my feelings right now?” By asking questions and naming your emotions, you are rethinking your thoughts and feelings. It may be difficult at first, but over time you will learn to better control your emotions.
Next, look for a solution. Often you need to change the angle of the circumstance. When you begin to think of other possible ways to look at the situation, your emotions will immediately begin to change for the better. What the focus of attention is on will always grow. So, try not to think about bad scenarios. Sometimes, just by understanding why you are feeling certain emotions in the moment, you can manage your feelings and reduce unwanted reactions – understanding always leads to reassurance.
Reaction is the most difficult stage. How we react and manage our emotions is a habit. We all know at least one person who is nervous and constantly worried for no reason, about everything. He has formed the habit of associating a situation he doesn’t like with “agitation,” his emotions have taken over. Learning to listen to yourself, to identify, understand and choose emotions is an important skill that needs to be constantly developed.
The 90-Second Rule
When you feel an emotion, unpleasant for you, remember that it will pass through you in just a minute and a half. That’s how long it takes from the moment the limbic system generates the emotion to the moment the chemical reaction disappears. If you just feel the emotion in that time, rather than engaging in the thought of “I’m angry, sad, what a disappointment,” it will pass, and you will regain your balance. Never identify with the emotion in your thoughts. For example: “I am angry, crushed, depressed.” You are not your emotions! When a situation arises that you don’t like, try to be aware of your feelings, but don’t think about what upsets you.
There are times when the best way to accomplish something is to do nothing at all. In that case, just being here and now is enough to change the mood. A great way is a quick meditation. It will help you calm down and regain your composure. Close your eyes and concentrate on the breath. Feel the inhale and exhale. Breathe for a few minutes. You can find special resources that offer many options for meditation practices, including very short ones of 5,10,15 minutes.
Write Down Your Experiences
A mood and self-reflection journal, or, the familiar Diary, will help you manage your emotions effectively. Each day, write down in a notebook how you are feeling, how the emotion affected you, what happened during the day. Sometimes you may not make sense of yourself, you may not understand how or why any emotion came. You may have difficulty describing them. In that case, try to relate those feelings to a similar situation you’ve been in before.
Did you know that the moment a person smiles, they physiologically cannot have unpleasant feelings? If you are sad or tense, smile to yourself in front of the mirror. Hold that smile until you sincerely feel the urge to smile.