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Take Back Control of your Life with Positive Emotions

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Take Back Control of your Life with Positive Emotions

Let’s face it, 2020 has not been the year many of us expected or hoped for. For many, it’s been one of the most difficult years of their lives. With uncertainty, loneliness, fear, anger, and stress at an all-time high, you’ve likely experienced your fair share of bad days, tough times, and negative emotions.

A survey done by the CDC showed the significant effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health: 40% of adults reported struggling with mental health including anxiety/depressive symptoms, trauma/stressor-related disorders, increased substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.[1]

If you’re feeling scared, lonely, sad, or down, you are not the only one. There are many things out of your control – the pandemic, natural disasters, heated politics, and unemployment, to name a few. You are not alone, but you alone can control your emotions.

With the right strategies and an understanding of why positivity is so critical, each day can be better. In the words of Viktor Frankl,

“Everything can be taken from us but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”.

If you have not read Man’s Search for Meaning, I highly recommend you read it now.

You have the power to control what’s going on inside you. I’m not suggesting you ignore what’s going on in the world and look for only sunshine and rainbows. I’m also not suggesting ‘good vibes only’ and ignoring the current state of affairs. That is toxic positivity.

I am suggesting that instead of holding tight and waiting for 2020 to end (will things really be different on January 1st anyway?), you choose to make the most of every day you are given.

How? By actively and intentionally bringing positive emotions into each day.

What Really Are Emotions?

Emotions, both positive and negative, are a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

While very complex in nature, they are usually feelings that happen within us as a result of something we experience internally or externally. You read something in the news and feel sad, angry, or fearful. You see someone you love and feel joy or happiness. You remember a time that someone showed you generosity or kindness and feel grateful.

Emotions play a critical role in our lives. Even negative emotions have a role and benefit. However, too many negative emotions can have a dramatic impact on our life, health, and well-being so it is critical (especially now) to find ways to keep our emotions in balance.

The Losada ratio, also known as the critical positivity ratio, is a 3:1 rate of positive to negative emotions. You may have heard of a similar 5:1 ratio for successful and happy relationships. The Gottman Institute states,[2]

“for every one negative feeling or interaction between partners, there must be five positive feelings or interactions.”

Regardless of 1:3 or 1:5, the sentiment is the same. In order for us to experience happy, positive lives and relationships and feel more in control, we must have a greater ratio of positive emotions to negative ones.

The Benefits of Positive Emotions

“Positivity transforms us for the better.” — Barbara Fredrickson.

Positive emotions are associated with advantageous physical and psychological health outcomes.[3] These include enhancing our immune system, physical health, longevity, mental health, resilience, coping skills, and overall well-being.

Think about a time you felt a positive emotion such as joy or love. What happened? Perhaps a smile came across your face. Maybe you felt a shift in your energy. Perhaps you felt a sense of peace or a rush of excitement. Regardless of the scenario, it likely felt good. And those feelings likely had positive effects on your productivity, energy, and momentum.

There’s a good reason for these outcomes and their subsequent domino effects. It’s called the Broaden-and-Build Theory.[4]. The key premise is that:

“The benefits of positive emotions don’t stop after a few minutes of good feelings subside. In fact, the biggest benefit that positive emotions provide is an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.”

YOU Can Flip the Switch

Take a moment to consider this: If emotions happen as a reaction to something, then you can feel positive emotions any time you want by simply creating the right stimulus to generate the feeling you are looking for.

In Jill Boyle’s book Stroke of Insight, she shares the 90-second rule:

“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

You have the power to change the emotional loop that you are experiencing.

Zach Bush, triple board-certified MD states,

“Neurochemically, an emotion lasts seven seconds. If you are going to stay sad, rejected, or otherwise emotionally caught up, we have to keep manufacturing that emotion by telling ourselves the story over and over again. If we take two minutes to break that emotional storytelling we can be free.”

Positive emotions aren’t just something you have to wait around for. They aren’t only created by positive events and moments in our lives. They’re something you can generate.

You have the opportunity every single day to evoke these emotions. Here’s how.

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How to Generate Positive Emotions

Barbara Fredrickson, the creator of the Broaden-and-Build theory, is a leader in researching emotions and positive psychology. In her work, she identified the ‘big 10 positive emotions”. We can use these as a basis for how to evoke positive emotions for yourself on a daily basis.

    As you read these, challenge yourself to think about positive emotions in a different way. It’s not just about being ‘happy’. Take some time to consider these emotions on a deeper level.

    Love

    Maslow defines love as a basic human need. Close intimate bonds make us feel safer, happier, and more connected.

    Evoke Love: One of the simplest ways to conjure up feelings of love is to hug your kid, spouse or pet. Hugging boosts your oxytocin levels (the love hormone) and increases serotonin (elevates mood and creates happiness). Find someone – or something – to hug for at least 30 seconds – it’s quick and easy and will put you in a more positive mood.

    Joy

    Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Think about a time when you saw a wide-eyed child chasing bubbles or two puppies gleefully playing. You can experience joy at any moment by simply remembering a time when you felt a great sense of joy.

    Evoke Joy: Close your eyes and think of a time when you felt joy. Put yourself back in that moment. Take a breath, let it sink in, and feel the joy from deep within you. Notice what you see, hear, and feel. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between what is real and what is not, so if you picture something that brings you joy, your mind will feel that is real and you will experience all of the great benefits that come with those positive emotions.

    Gratitude.

    “As we invite the energy of gratitude into our daily lives we become alchemists…turning dark into light, scarcity into abundance, and fear into love.” – Deepak Chopra.

    Gratitude is alchemy. Being intentionally and overtly grateful is one of the simplest and most powerful things you can do to live a full and happy life. There’s a reason why people say ‘Count your blessings’.[5]

    Evoke Gratitude: You can always find something to be grateful for. Right now, identify 3 things you feel thankful for. Better yet, start a daily gratitude practice: 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude

    Serenity

    Serenity is the state or quality of being serene, calm or tranquil. Read those words again slowly and feel them; you may already feel more at ease.

    Evoke Serenity: You can create this feeling through meditation, a walk-in nature, music, grounding, breathwork, and mindfulness. Even looking at serene images, like a peaceful lake or snow falling can instantly take your mind to a place of calm.

      Interest

      We are here to grow, learn, and expand, so it’s no wonder that interest creates a feeling of positivity. It uses your cognitive capacity, creates a sense of expansion, and opens your mind. We spend so much time doing the things we have to do that we often don’t spend enough doing the thing we are interested in doing.

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      Evoke Interest: Identify one thing today that makes you feel curious, something that intrigues you or creates a sense of wonder. Set aside time to explore this interest further. Enroll in an online course, watch a TED talk, or have a cup of coffee and learn from someone you admire.

      Hope

      Hope is believing that something is possible. It keep your mind open to opportunities or options instead of closing them off. I recently had a client diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. She felt defeated, stuck and hopeless. However, she heard a doctor speak about his methodologies for addressing autoimmune issues and felt hope immediately. That hope spurred her to join a health coaching program and gave rise to a new belief that healing was possible.

      Evoke Hope: Hope is ultimately about having a sliver of belief that things can be different. Shane Lopez, author of Making Hope Happen, says that while some people are more wired for hope, it can be learned. Hopeful people share these four beliefs. [6] You can, too.

      1. The future will be better than the present.
      2. I have the power to make it so.
      3. There are many paths to my goals.
      4. None of them are free of obstacles.

        Pride

        Just today, I called a friend to ask for her advice. She has had a difficult few months with significant medical challenges. As we talked and she provided some amazing ideas, I commented how thankful I was for her insight and support. Her energy immediately shifted. Why? Because she felt proud. She had contributed to something meaningful to me and that felt good to her.

        Think of something you feel proud of. What happens in your body? Maybe your head lifts, your chest rises, you feel stronger and more capable?

        Evoke Pride: Harness the power of pride by acknowledging your wins and accomplishments. Every day for the next 30 days, list three things that you achieved that day or make you feel proud. This can be as simple as making your bed or as significant as a promotion at work.

        Amusement

        Amusement is when we find something entertaining or funny. We all know that laughing makes us feel good. In fact, it’s been proven that laughter has a multitude of significant health benefits, including soothing tension, relieving pain, and improving your mood.[7]

        Evoke Amusement: Find things that make you laugh or smile. Read a funny book, play with your kids, watch a silly movie, or look up news bloopers or ‘try not to laugh’ videos on YouTube.

        Inspiration

        Someone once told me that the word inspired comes from the Latin word ‘in spirit’ which I’ve always really loved the notion of. Turns out that’s not entirely true. It comes from the Latin root inspirare which means ‘to breathe or blow into.’ [9] If you think of inspiration, it is literally breathing life into you.

        Evoke Inspiration: Think of something or someone you feel motivated or uplifted by. Read a book or article by someone who has a knack for lighting your fire. Watch a TED talk on a topic you feel moved by.

        Awe

        When was the last time you felt awe? Awe is what you feel when you are deeply amazed by something. It’s a sense of wonder you can have anywhere if you are intentionally looking. I find awe in the magnitude and beauty of nature, the wisdom of a child, and the talents of human beings.

        Evoke Awe: Nature is one of the greatest gifts of awe. Head out to your local forest, beach, park, mountain, or backyard and take in the beauty of nature – from little bugs to the grandest mountains, the enormity of the sea, to the wonder of the stars and universe.

        The Pleasant Life, The Good Life, and the Meaningful Life

        Life’s not just all about positive emotions. Positive psychology is the scientific study of the ‘good life’, or the positive aspects of the human experience that make life worth living.[8]

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        In his TED talk, Martin Seligman, one of the founders of positive psychology talks about “three different happy lives”.

        The pleasant life is about having as many pleasures and positive emotions as you can.

        The good life is about being in flow – knowing what your highest strengths are and using those as much as you can.

        The meaningful life is knowing your highest strengths and using them in the service of something larger than yourself.

        If you want to learn more about this, find out in Martin’s TED Talk:

        So if you want to truly flourish and feel long-lasting satisfaction and fulfillment, don’t focus solely on emotions and a more pleasurable life. Focus also on having a more engaged and meaningful life through fulfilling your purpose and your contribution to the world.

        Final Thoughts

        Now more than ever, we could all use a little more James Brown’s “I Feel Good” energy. Even when the world feels dark and heavy, it’s important to know that it’s okay to feel good. Many people feel bad or guilty for feeling upbeat when you or others are suffering; but what good does it do yourself and those around you if you stay stuck in this state of mind?

        Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. – Haruki Murakami

        You have permission, in fact, you have a responsibility, to feel good, do good and be the best version of yourself. Great changes in history never occurred through negativity and resignation, but through hope and optimism that things could be different. And it’s times like these it becomes even more critical that we find that positivity, tap into our collective strength, resilience, and optimism and power through.

        Every day, you have the choice and the opportunity to identify which of these positive emotions you will embrace. Then, stand back and notice the ripple effect this has on you and those around you – it is truly a gift.

        “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” — MLK Jr

        More About Positive Thinking

        Featured photo credit: Antonino Visalli via unsplash.com

        Reference

        More by this author

        Tracy Kennedy

        Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

        How to Deal with Setbacks And Use Them for Future Success How to Deal with Uncertainty And Have Peace of Mind 12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

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        Last Updated on December 2, 2021

        10 Steps to Take If You’re Feeling Hopeless About Your Future

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        10 Steps to Take If You’re Feeling Hopeless About Your Future

        Whether you’re a mother who wants the best for her children, a hard worker waiting for your promotion, or someone dealing with a personal tragedy such as a job loss, divorce, or losing a loved one, when we are feeling hopeless, we all need to dig deep to make it through these challenges.

        However, hope can only be accessed once we get out of our heads and quit over-rationalizing. We need to be truly convinced that better things are in store for us. Even if things may not seem to be going right in the present, we need to believe that there’s a bigger plan that we cannot yet see.

        Why Do We Need Hope?

        We need hope to help us get through the difficult phases of life and uplift our morale to give us the courage to deal with the concerns rationally.

        Hope is a positive approach towards life that keeps our faith alive. When you are stuck in a grim situation whose outcome is beyond your control, the only thing that keeps you going is hope.

        No matter how much we despise getting stuck in a helpless situation, almost everyone has to deal with such instances in their lives. The stress and anxiety are pretty high during such times, and one is left helpless at the mercy of the almighty’s will.

        We need hope because it helps us remember that there is still a possibility of a better future or outcome. For some, it proves to be a source of inspiration, while for others, it is the only possible option that they can rely on.

        Having hope helps reduce stress and overcome restlessness to focus on the possible options resulting in the desired outcome. Even when you are left with no options, hope lets us believe that “miracles do happen” and thus maintains a positive attitude for a better consequence.

        What Are the Symptoms of Hopelessness?

        When someone is feeling stuck in a situation or where the outcome of an event is not in their control, they might show signs of hopelessness. Such people often feel as if they are stuck in a deep dark hole from where it is almost impossible to climb out. This leads them to display certain signs or form unusual habits.

        Here are some of the common symptoms of hopelessness:

        • People with a sense of hopelessness will lose interest in regular life activities that they had no problem dealing with before. Finding it difficult to leave the bed, skipping meals, not taking baths regularly, etc., are common symptoms of hopelessness.
        • Isolation is another common symptom of hopelessness. People feeling hopeless tend to disconnect themselves from their regular acquaintances of friends or family.
        • Hopeless people feel powerless. They tend to show signs of having no control over any other activities of their lives.
        • Other common symptoms of hopelessness are substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, etc.), overeating, consuming unhealthy meals, and oversleeping.
        • In some extreme cases, people showcase suicidal tendencies.

        10 Steps to Take When You’re Feeling Hopeless

        These 10 steps will inspire you and give you the boost of hope that you need to keep going when you’re feeling hopeless about the future.

        1. Take a Step Back

        If you’re overwhelmed by your emotions, and if the feelings of insecurity are plaguing your mind, it’s a sign that you need to step back and engage in some serious self-care to regroup and honor your feelings.

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        Go for a walk, speak with a friend, take a mini-vacation, listen to music, meditate, or journal. Do anything that helps you return to center and balance.

        Acknowledge and reward yourself for each milestone you reach, no matter how small. Every step you take matters and will bring you closer to your dreams.

        Focus on the now by taking conscious, deep breaths and appreciating all that’s in your present moment.

        2. Revisit Your Vision and Goals

        If you’ve hit a wall, it would be beneficial to revisit your goals and vision. Take note of the exact goals that you have laid out and remind yourself what inspired you to create them in the first place.

        For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, was it because your doctor recommended it or because you want to get healthier?

        The key is to set goals that you’re fired up about and that you’re willing to commit to. Your goals need to be connected to an overarching vision that will galvanize you to overcome any obstacle.

        Create a vision board, or write a descriptive and vivid account of what you would like to achieve.

        3. Manage Your Expectations

        Another possible reason that you’re losing motivation and feeling hopeless is that your expectations are too high. Often, our biggest disappointments occur from having unrealistic expectations. “Unrealistic” doesn’t always mean that you can’t achieve your goals, but that you may need more time or resources to actualize them.

        For example, when opening a new store, instead of hoping to make 10K, focus on breaking even and perfecting your system of operations. Set positive and specific goals that feel manageable, especially in the beginning stages. Setting healthy expectations that are easy to reach will encourage you to keep going.

        4. Have a Contingency Plan

        There’s always a chance that your plans won’t work out as you hoped they would. I know that it’s hard to accept failure as a possibility without getting dejected, especially if it’s important to you.However, I’ve always found that having an alternative plan keeps failure in perspective[1].

        A plan B is like a safety net, there to catch you in case you lose your grip. In creating a contingency plan, it’s essential to assess what went wrong in your previous plan.

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        What could you have done differently? What are the lessons from the experience that can equip you with the knowledge to get it right the next time around? Ask friends, mentors, and coaches for candid feedback to supplement your own insights.

        Let a solid plan B comfort you in knowing that failure is not the end of the road but merely a bend that’s leading you somewhere else.

        You can learn how to create a solid contingency plan here.

        5. Find Sources of Positive Reinforcement

        Hope is like a candle flame that can burn out without constant positive reinforcement. We need reminders to stimulate us with hope about the future. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to be inspired, such as acknowledging our small successes along the way and remembering the times when we were able to overcome obstacles.

        You can also find inspiration in books, music, movies, affirmation, and other people’s stories. I also love being in the presence of young children who radiate optimism. Find your own unique sources of motivation that work for you and do your best to stay away from the black hole of social media.

        6. Have a Strong Circle of Support

        As social beings, we benefit tremendously from having support from a community of people that matter to us when we are feeling hopeless. Friends and family members are the primary lifeline for most of us, but we can also extend our network to include a trusted group of mentors, coaches, counselors, or a support group who are open to hearing our story and who believe in the vision that we have for our life.

        Whenever we’re down and out, these are the people who can be a source of comfort and help us get back in the game.

        7. Stay in Touch With Your Vision

        It’s easier to feel hopeful when we’re guided by a strong vision for our future. That’s why it’s essential to clarify your vision and future plans.

        Goal-setting, vision boards, and visualization are a couple of techniques that can give shape to our dreams. By committing to these practices, our vision will become more tangible and within our reach.

        Touching base with our goals will make them feel real and give us a focal point towards which we can direct all of our energy.

        8. Stay Well-Informed and Be Proactive

        Without knowledge and action, hope is just psychological fluff. Hope should propel us to seek out more information about what we desire and take directed steps towards realizing it.

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        Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and it gives us the capacity to make more mindful choices. It strengthens our belief that we have what it takes to influence outcomes and to consciously move forward.

        9. Stay Focused on the Present Moment

        Hope has a future orientation and can, therefore, direct our thoughts away from the present. It’s essential that you don’t spend too much time planning for the future as this can lead to feeling hopeless.

        Even though we want things to get better, we have to make peace with where we are in our current lives. This quiet acceptance will give us inner peace and prevent us from becoming overly attached to future outcomes[2].

          The truth is that the present moment is all we’ll ever have, and we should make every effort to capture its beauty and essence as we go through it.

          10. Practice Gratitude

          Gratitude generates a feeling of warmth and abundance. Based on the Law of Attraction[3], the more appreciative that you are for all that you have, material or otherwise, the more you’re likely to attract good things to you and improve your mental health.

          The next time you’re feeling down about the future, take a deep breath and think of all the wonderful things and people around you. You’ll feel an instant shift in how you see your life when you see how many things in your life you can be grateful for.

          You can start spending time with a gratitude journal or think of a few things you’re thankful for on a daily basis.

          When To Seek Help?

          If you find yourself in a jam where you feel extremely hopeless and stuck in the vicious cycle of negativity, realize that it is time to seek help.

          Many even reach the extent where they contemplate taking extreme steps like suicide or hurting themselves. If you are going through any such situation, it would be wise to get help from a professional who can help you feel better.

          You can try talking to your close ones first if needed and then solicit their advice about whether you should take up professional help to get over it. If needed, you can take someone along to the sessions. You must seek immediate help if you find the situation getting worse day by day.

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          Professional treatment is found to be very effective in helping people to deal with hopelessness.

          How To Help Someone Who Feels Hopeless?

          There are more than a few ways to help someone feeling hopeless. You might want to help out a friend or a family who is in such a predicament. Obviously, you would want them to come out of this mental illness or state and help them get back to normal.

          You must always start by determining how deeply the person is affected by the situation and their signs of hopelessness. If it is a case of extreme hopelessness where they may contemplate suicide, you must involve the authorities to take immediate action without any delay. You should also advice diagnosis or treatment to the patient.

          However, many others going through hopelessness respond to a sympathetic conversation. Sometimes talking about the situation helps them feel better and maybe realize that they need to change their approach.

          Refrain from being too judgemental and offering unsolicited advice without knowing exactly how they feel. On many occasions, such people open up during the conversation and indicate how they would like to be helped.

          Letting them know that they do not have to deal with the situation alone is another great way to help them feel better. If you mean it, then tell them that you are in this together and will stick with them till the end to them get through it.

          If you feel that your words and advice are reaping no results, then maybe you should guide them to seek professional help or support groups. Some people just need a minor nudge into a proper direction to help them towards their journey to recovery from hopelessness.

          The Bottom Line

          The next time you feel hopeless while waiting for things to happen in your life, remember that life is ultimately about the journey and not the destination. Hold your dreams close to your heart, work steadily towards them, but don’t forget to look around you and appreciate the gift of being alive on this beautiful planet.

          More on How to Stop Feeling Hopeless

          Featured photo credit: Jurica Koletić via unsplash.com

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