Can you REALLY control how you feel?
There seems to be two ideologies referenced when it comes to emotions: 1) we can choose how we feel, no matter what, in any given scenario. 2) We instinctively react, with no control of our emotions
The first theory is touted by the overwhelming number of positive thinkers and ‘gurus’ out there, claiming that we are in complete control of our emotions – therefore, we have no excuse to ever feel negatively. When in a traffic jam, we can choose to feel calm and happy, instead of annoyed and frustrated. When someone insults us, we can choose to feel joyful, instead of angry (and instead of wanting to punch them in the throat…)
On the other hand, the second theory (though it doesn’t have the cult-like following of the first) is more of a plain speak thought. We don’t encourage reacting to stimuli without control, but it is often what happens and how we believe we’ve been conditioned. For example, if arguing with a spouse, a common defense is “it’s just how I feel” or “That’s just who I am”.
So, which theory is correct?
While I’m all for personal power, the first theory seemed a little too oversimplified for me. And, of course, the second theory seems a little too barbaric. So, I sought out to explore the truths and the misconceptions behind these black and white approaches to emotional control and responsibility.
I want to be the “Snopes” of this whole personal development thing. So naturally, after doing quite a bit of research (if you know me well, I research EVERYTHING) I wanted to share with you my revelation:
You do have the power to control how you feel in every scenario.
BUT, it isn’t a switch that you simply flick up or down in your mind, as we are often taught to believe. Truth is, there are 3 ways to control your emotions, and to feel better and happier every single day…and they require consistent practice.
Well, practicing feeling happy allows us to recognize and later replicate the accompanying thoughts and the physical sensation of happiness. It also teaches our bodies to release the feel-good hormones, such as endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin, when something makes us feel happy. So, the real question is: how can we train ourselves to feel happiness on command?
1. Change your thoughts
This is where the whole “positive thinking” philosophy comes into play. It claims you can change how you think about a given scenario, and therefore change your emotions towards it.
For example, if you are thinking that you are a happy person, and you’re grateful for everything that you have, you will experience a certain level of feeling happiness and gratitude.
Same goes if you think that your life is terrible, that you can’t catch a break, etc. etc. You will likely feel miserable, even if your life circumstance is the same as the above.
The only difference between these two scenarios is how you think about your life. You can change the story to change your emotions.
If you’re excited, it’s because you have a thought that is exciting you.
If you’re angry, it’s because you have a thought that is angering you.
Practice managing your thoughts to manage your emotions, and you will change how you regularly feel.
2. Change your behavior
Certain actions and behaviors, such as exercising, getting out in the sun, hugging your spouse, and spending time with your kids can produce those feel-good hormones that I mentioned earlier, which can give you that boost of happiness.
Also, outward expression of happiness can lead to an internal feeling of happiness. Studies have shown that the mere act of smiling can “trick” your brain into believing that you are happy, which then leads to the physical manifestation (i.e. release of hormones) of feeling happy.
Not to mention, smiling is contagious. And it’s a whole lot easier to feel good when those around you feel good too.
Which leads me to my last point…
3. Change your circumstances
Though the above two tips are enough, changing your circumstances makes it easier to manage our emotions.
In other words, it can lead to a higher probability of feeling good.
Now, circumstances are one of those things that we can’t always change. Sometimes all you can change is how you think and react to your circumstance.
But, a few examples to set yourself up for feel-good success: do things you enjoy doing, set goals, spend time with happy people, get your health in check, and keep a clean home.
You can and should take full responsibility for your emotions. You have that power. But it helps to lay the ground work first.
Try the above things, take back your personal power, and let me know how it goes!