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Three Tips for Controlling Your Emotions

Three Tips for Controlling Your Emotions

    How can you get better at controlling your feelings?

    The language of this question reveals a biased belief that there are bad emotions requiring control – which means exerting power to subdue. Here’s a simply radical shift in perspective: How can I get better at harnessing my feelings? Let’s call it Navigating Emotions.

    In this 5 minute video, Dr. Barbara Fatum offers practical tips for all of us do a better job with our feelings, including ideas on how to teach this invaluable skill to children — here’s the video.

    Easy Tips for Controlling Emotions

    1. Change your perspective

    Emotions, even challenging ones like anger, fear and jealousy, are there for a reason! They’re messages from you to you — there’s wisdom. Instead of “controlling” the emotions, control your behavior. (Hitting, shouting, hurting, running are all behaviors).

    What if we could interact with other people with that same calm, powerful, effortless ease? One major reason we don’t is that we get caught up in small tensions and conflicts. These “bumps” usually escalate into two sides both needing to be right because we’re so good at sensing danger.

    At the very core of our being is a set of reactions that help us survive. Thousands of years of practice have refined our ability to protect ourselves from threat and danger. We don’t have turtle-like shells or tiger-like fangs — we have super-sensitive brains.

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    When our brains perceive a threat, they react to protect us; it’s a survival response built into the limbic brain (or “emotional brain”). Depending on biology and experience, that protection comes from fighting, fleeing, or freezing. Some people also add another “f” — “flocking” or herding together. It is almost impossible to avoid that impulse; we are literally hard-wired to react that way to defend against threat.

    So, if I threaten you, I can almost guarantee that you will react by fighting, fleeing, or freezing. You will “be defensive” by attacking back, retreating, evading, or ganging up with others. Of course, depending on your reaction, you can almost guarantee that I will respond with one of those as well.

    The “threat response” is part of what Dr. Daniel Goleman called “hijacking the amygdala” and is well defined in Dr. Joseph LeDoux’s research. The amgydala is one of the primary emotional centers in the brain; one core function is reacting to perceived danger. As Dr. Peter Salovey says, this reaction is actually an example of the intelligence of our emotions — a kind of “emotional logic” is followed and decisions are made with little or no cognitive thought; the problem is that few of us have developed this aspect of our intelligence.

    So what constitutes “threat” from the amygdala’s point of view? Almost any interaction where someone is trying to take power over someone else will trigger the “survival response.” People try to take power by putting others down, shaming, blaming, embarrassing, judging, discrediting, and dividing.

    You can see this dynamic at play on a daily basis in most businesses, schools, and families. I want to be right so I walk in blaming and judging, putting down other people; if I “make them less” it seems to strengthen my position. The other person reacts in survival mode, and the situation escalates. It happens almost every time. Yet, time after time, I see myself and others surprised and disappointed when people are defensive!

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     2. Create emotions strategies.

    Consider: What do you want to happen next? Based on these factors: What feelings will help make that happen? Do you have any of those feelings? Chances are, in any situation you have multiple feelings — call on the ones that will help you move forward.

    3. Charge your compassion batteries.

    It’s tough to make emotionally wise choices when you’re feelings of compassion are hiding. Interestingly, actively practicing to care about others increases your compassion — which increases your own inner peace.

    One of the basic facts about emotion: Feelings motivate.

    Fear motivates protection.

    Anger motivates attack.

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    Joy motivates connection.

    Disgust motivates rejection.

    Trust motivates stepping forward.

    Sorrow motivates withdrawing.

    Surprise motivates stopping to assess.

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    Anticipation motivates looking forward.

    There are myriad combinations of these expressed in thousands of words for feelings.

    Featured photo credit: Hands Over Heart/Dollarphoto via media.lifehack.org

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    Last Updated on July 16, 2019

    7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

    7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

    Negativity affects ourselves and everyone around us. It limits our potential to become something great and live a fulfilling, purposeful life. Negativity has a tangible effect on our health, too. Research has shown that people who cultivate negative energy experience more stress, more sickness, and less opportunity over the course of their lives than those who choose to live positively.

    When we make a decision to become positive, and follow that decision up with action, we will begin to encounter situations and people that are also positive. The negative energy gets edged out by all positive experiences. It’s a snowball effect.

    Although negative and positive thoughts will always exist, the key to becoming positive is to limit the amount of negativity that we experience by filling ourselves up with more positivity.

    Here are some ways to get rid of negativity and become more positive.

    1. Become Grateful for Everything

    When life is all about us, it’s easy to believe that we deserve what we have. An attitude of entitlement puts us at the center of the universe and sets up the unrealistic expectation that others should cater to us, our needs, and our wants. This vain state of existence is a surefire way to set yourself up for an unfulfilled life of negativity.

    People living in this sort of entitlement are “energy suckers”–they are always searching for what they can get out of a situation. People that don’t appreciate the nuances of their lives live in a constant state of lacking. And it’s really difficult to live a positive life this way.

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    When we begin to be grateful and appreciate everything in our lives–from the small struggles that make us better, to the car that gets us from A to B every day–we shift our attitude from one of selfishness, to one of appreciation. This appreciation gets noticed by others, and a positive harmony begins to form in our relationships.

    We begin to receive more of that which we are grateful for, because we’ve opened ourselves up to the idea of receiving, instead of taking. This will make your life more fulfilling, and more positive.

    2. Laugh More, Especially at Yourself

    Life gets busy, our schedules fill up, we get into relationships, and work can feel task oriented and routine-driven at times. Being human can feel more like being a robot. But having this work-driven, serious attitude often results in negative and performance oriented thinking.

    Becoming positive means taking life less seriously and letting yourself off the hook. This is the only life that you get to live, why not lighten up your mood?

    Laughter helps us become positive by lightening our mood and reminding us not to take life so seriously. Are you sensitive to light sarcasm? Do you have trouble laughing at jokes? Usually, people who are stressed out and overly serious get most offended by sarcasm because their life is all work and no play.

    If we can learn to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes, life will become more of an experiment in finding out what makes us happy. And finding happiness means finding positivity.

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    3. Help Others

    Negativity goes hand in hand with selfishness. People that live only for themselves have no higher purpose in their lives. If the whole point of this world is only to take care of yourself and no one else, the road to a long-term fulfillment and purpose is going to be a long one.

    Positivity accompanies purpose. The most basic way to create purpose and positivity in your life is to begin doing things for others. Start small; open the door for the person in front of you at Starbucks or ask someone how their day was before telling them about yours.

    Helping others will give you an intangible sense of value that will translate into positivity. And people might just appreciate you in the process.

    4. Change Your Thinking

    We can either be our best coach or our best enemy. Change starts from within. If you want to become more positive, change the wording of your thoughts. We are the hardest on ourselves, and a stream of negative self talk is corrosive to a positive life.

    The next time you have a negative thought, write it down and rephrase it with a positive spin. For example, change a thought like, “I can’t believe I did so horribly on the test–I suck.” to “I didn’t do as well as I hoped to on this test. But I know I’m capable and I’ll do better next time.”

    Changing our self-talk is powerful.

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    5. Surround Yourself with Positive People

    We become most like the people that we surround ourselves with. If our friend group is full of negative energy-suckers and drama queens, we will emulate that behavior and become like them. It is very difficult to become more positive when the people around us don’t support or demonstrate positive behavior.

    As you become more positive, you’ll find that your existing friends will either appreciate the new you or they will become resistant to your positive changes. This is a natural response.

    Change is scary; but cutting out the negative people in your life is a huge step to becoming more positive. Positive people reflect and bounce their perspectives onto one another. Positivity is a step-by-step process when you do it solo, but a positive group of friends can be an escalator.

    6. Get into Action

    Negative thoughts can be overwhelming and challenging to navigate. Negativity is usually accompanied by a “freak-out” response, especially when tied to relationships, people and to worrying about the future. This is debilitating to becoming positive and usually snowballs into more worry, more stress and more freak-outs.

    Turn the negative stress into positive action. The next time you’re in one of these situations, walk away and take a break. With your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths. Once you’re calm, approach the situation or problem with a pen and pad of paper. Write out four or five actions or solutions to begin solving the problem.

    Taking yourself out of the emotionally charged negative by moving into the action-oriented positive will help you solve more problems rationally and live in positivity

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    7. Take Full Responsibility, Stop Being the Victim

    You are responsible for your thoughts.

    People that consistently believe that things happen to them handicap themselves to a victim mentality. This is a subtle and deceptive negative thought pattern. Phrases like “I have to work” or “I can’t believe he did that to me” are indicators of a victim mentality. Blaming circumstances and blaming others only handicaps our decision to change something negative into something positive.

    Taking full responsibility for your life, your thoughts and your actions is one of the biggest steps in creating a more positive life. We have unlimited potential within to create our own reality, change our life, and change our thoughts. When we begin to really internalize this, we discover that no one can make us feel or do anything. We choose our emotional and behavioral response to people and circumstances.

    Make positive choices in favor of yourself.

    “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny” ― Lao Tzu

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    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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