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Last Updated on February 6, 2020

How To Control Your Emotions Effectively

How To Control Your Emotions Effectively

Jill and Sarah are best friends. They do everything together, but they are also very different.

Jill is constantly strung out; the smallest mishap will send her into a state of frustration, stress and shouting. She is affected by everything around her: the traffic, long queues, the mean colleague. Her mood and happiness are directly influenced on a daily basis by what is happening around her. Sarah on the other hand, doesn’t let small things get to her. She decides how she wants to feel and she is much happier on a continuous basis than Jill.

What is the difference?

Choice.

Managing your emotions is very much a question of choice. Do you want to, or not? So much has been written about emotions and how to deal with them effectively, yet many people can’t control this area of life. Why? Managing emotions effectively is actually like developing a skill or a habit. It is a way of doing something better, and as humans, we struggle with change the most.

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Changing the way you usually do something is not easy and it is even more difficult when it comes to emotions. When we are feeling ‘emotional,’ the last thing we want to do is calm down and try to deal with the situation pro-actively; we most often want to rant about what is upsetting us.

If we understand a little more about how our emotions work, we are in a much better position to use this information to our advantage. Learning how to control your emotions can be one of the best skills you will ever develop in your life. Your emotions lead to the actions you take and therefore, create the life you are experiencing now, every part of it.

Our emotional part of the brain, the limbic system, is one of the oldest parts when compared, for example, to our prefrontal cortex, which is our ‘thinking’ part. Because our emotional part is so old, and therefore an extremely strong part of the brain, it is understandable that it feels like our emotions run us and hijack our thinking at times. The average person’s emotional part of the brain is over six billion times more active than the prefrontal cortex.

The point is, your emotions will naturally hijack your thinking—this is a given—but there are still ways to deal with this.

To keep things simple, let’s look at what you can do to flip this situation around. Ignoring emotions, suppressing them or not dealing with them will come back to bite you! Stress and anxiety come from suppressed emotions, so if you think that dealing with your emotions by ignoring them is going to work, you are sorely wrong.

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Here are 4 simple steps to start controlling your emotions effectively.

1. The First Step Is Awareness

If you are not aware of the times when you are overly emotional or overreacting, how can you try to manage it? It is impossible. Start to monitor your emotions and give names to them. Sometimes we find it difficult to identify what we are feeling. Giving it a name helps us gain clarity, which is essential in moving forward.

2. Discover the ‘Why’ of Your Emotions

Once you have identified how you are feeling, you want to discover why you are feeling it. What is causing this feeling inside you? Of course, there could be a million reasons, and to find out you have to ask yourself, like you would a friend, “What is wrong? What is causing me to feel this way?” Your mind will always look for an answer.

Most of the time, simply the way you are thinking about the situation is causing you to feel the way you do. Another huge reason why we feel negative emotions is because our values are not present in that moment or being respected.

Remember: discover the ‘why.’

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3. Then Ask Yourself, “What Is the Solution?”

Once you have discovered why, what can you do to take back control? Sometimes, you might need to change the way you are thinking about the situation.

You see, your thoughts lead directly to your feelings; so if you are feeling bad, you most likely have a negative thought that is making you feel that way. If you start thinking of other possible ways of looking at the situation, you will begin to feel better immediately. What you focus on expands!

Sometimes, by simply understanding why you feel a certain way at a certain time, your emotions will start to diminish because understanding always leads to calming.

4. Choose How You Want to React

This is the hardest part. The way that we react and manage our emotions is a habit. Haven’t you noticed those people who get stressed out about nothing, literally freaking out at nothing? You almost feel sorry for them. They have created a habit of associating a situation they don’t like with ‘freaking out.’ Their emotions have hijacked them.

Learning to listen to your emotions, to identify, understand and then choose them, isn’t something that you decide to practice twice a week at lunchtime. No, it is with continuous effort and discipline that you can start to build this essential skill.

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Final Thoughts

Do you control your emotions, or do they really control and direct you?

It isn’t easy and that’s why so many people don’t make an effort and give up. But once you are able to control your emotions, life changes for you in more ways than you ever dreamed possible. Not only will you feel way more empowered and in control in life, but you will be happier and much healthier as you won’t be stressed or weighed down so often.

More About Controlling Emotions

Featured photo credit: Christian Fregnan via unsplash.com

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Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

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