Your Emotions are Just Information … Use them wisely

Ever wondered why you have feelings? What they mean? And what to do about them? Well … they are just here to give you information.

Have you ever thought about your emotions as chemical reactions in your body? For many they feel emotions come out of nowhere or are stupid and confusing, but in reality emotions are a source of intelligence and create chemical trails within your body. As a result, emotions shift your physical system and impact physical health structures. 

As a source of intelligence emotions give us information. They are a quicker and often more true source of information than our thinking mind. Those who are both emotionally intelligent and intellectually intelligent come out as the winners in our society. They can discern and utilize information along side reading social cues. This allows them to engage people in their goals and methods as well as make on the spot corrections to their language, presentation focus, and examples. Many studies show that those who invoke emotion during a presentation are viewed more favorably by the audience. Thus their information and call to action may be better remembered and given more importance than those who only present data and reason. 

Every emotion you have creates a chemical – electrical pattern within the body. This chemical electrical pattern is read by your endocrine system. The endocrine system then determines what hormones to move into the system and at what level to keep homeostasis going. Your body is always working to balance you. In contrast, hormones determine what you focus on. Let’s use sex hormones as our examples to help outline how our chemical nature determines our ability to engage with our environment. Before, I get feed back that this is too stereotypical, please remember that we all have differing levels of both testosterone, estrogen and progesterone – male or female, and that having a balanced endocrine system can help decrease many of the mental health issues we experience. For example, Olsson, Kopsida, Sorjonen, and Savic report:

“In sum, our results showed that females treated with testosterone, compared with the placebo, displayed an enhanced tendency to rate low-dominant faces as dominant, and this hampered the ability to accurately attribute mental states to others. In contrast, estrogen administered to males did not affect social–cognitive performance but affected vicarious emotional reactivity”. (p. 520, 2016)

The presence of more or less testosterone has been shown to help us focus on particular emotional states and ignore others. Emotions considered to be low on status help (disgust and sadness) can be more difficult for those with higher testosterone levels to discern, especially at lower levels of intensity (Rukavina et. al, 2018). This may be helpful for those who have high levels of fear and anxiety, as testosterone supplementation can help reduce the responsiveness to these emotional states. However, one must be careful as too much can lead to higher levels of aggression and stress on the cardiovascular system. Remember the “Type A” syndrome of men who have coronary problems midlife? The reactivity in their endocrine system around anger and aggression created stress on their cardic systems. 

In addition, Toffoletto et al. state, 

“Ovarian hormones are pivotal for the physiological maintenance of the brain function as well as its response to environmental stimuli. There is mounting evidence attesting the relevance of endogenous ovarian hormones as well as exogenous estradiol and progesterone for emotional and cognitive processing” (p. 28, 2014). 

In a meta-analysis of over 30 studies looking at fluctuations in female hormones, brain activation, and emotional and cognitive processing they showed how differing levels of endogenous hormones impacted focal points and reactions to social and cognitive stimuli. 

We like to think … we just think, but in reality everything we are is a chemical – electrical pattern inter-woven into our core being. It is both a physical and a cognitive process. Last week we looked closely at our thoughts and saw that what we think influences how we feel (physically and mentally). This week we flip to recognize that how we feel influences how we think. And how we feel is moderated by what is going on around us and inside of us. It is so important to care for your body. By looking at our differing sex hormones we see that we may over or under react to external factors based on levels of hormones in our physical system. We didn’t decide to focus more on one or the other, it is what our body mandated. As a result, we can shift how our bodies are operating by caring well for ourselves on a physical and mental level. 

We need to pay attention to things like good foods – we need the nutrients to make the neurotransmitters and hormones we need to calm our nervous systems and help our brain activate areas needed for particular focus.

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We need daily movement as it helps us metabolize stress hormones effectively and helps us make the feel good states our endorphins and endocannaboids can provide. We are calm and alert, but not overly focused or hyper vigilant – neither are helpful for intelligence states, learning, relationship, or creativity.

We need positive sleep and enough of it. Sleep helps our system reset and restore. Without it we are shortening our telomeres and shortening our lives. Sleep helps make sure our physical structure has what it needs, and as we saw above we need our physical structures to operate well for us to modulate where our attention goes.

We need solid, strong, and positive relationships. By cultivating good social relationships we activate our interpersonal dependance system which helps us regulate well, builds our brains, and helps maintain our grounding in present moment situations. It helps us to check-in and check ourselves when one of the above self-regulators is off.

So today, stop thinking about your emotions as random things that happen to you and take control of this powerful system by feeding yourself well (good self-regulation about all you allow into your system and your environment) and activating the ability to gather the intelligence your emotions give you through your chemical – electrical system. Then use that intelligence to act on those influences doing just what is needed in this moment, based on the moment you are in, not the one you wish you were.

Once you get the information and act upon it, emotions dissipate and you do not have to carry them forward as evidence of past experiences. They are just informational pieces to be used right now, help you survive your experiences, and connect deeply to what is around you. They are not the enemy, they are just information. Use them wisely. 

References:

Bos, P. A., Hofman, D., Hermans, E. J., Montoya, E. R., Baron-Cohen, S., & van Honk, J. (2016). Testosterone reduces functional connectivity during the ‘Reading the mind in the eyes’ test. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 68, 194-201. doi:http://dx.doi.org.tcsedsystem.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.03.006

Olsson, A., Kopsida, E., Sorjonen, K., & Savic, I. (2016). Testosterone and estrogen impact social evaluations and vicarious emotions: A double-blind placebo-controlled study. Emotion, 16(4), 515-523. doi:http://dx.doi.org.tcsedsystem.idm.oclc.org/10.1037/a0039765

Rukavina, S., Sachsenweger, F., Jerg-Bretzke, L., Daucher, A., Traue, H., Walter, S., & Hoffmann, H. (2018). Abstract: Testosterone and its influence on emotion recognition in young, healthy males. Psychology, 09(07), 1814-1827. doi:10.4236/psych.2018.97106

Toffoletto, S., Lanzenberger, R., Gingnell, M., Sundström-Poromaa, I., & Comasco, E. (2014). Emotional and cognitive functional imaging of estrogen and progesterone effects in the female human brain: A systematic review. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 50, 28-52. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.07.025

Graphic Credit: https: Tampa Therapy. //goo.gl/images/fnuwCX

5 Things Emotionally Stable People Don’t Do

So I was reading away and came across this gem in my inbox. These 5 behaviors are keys to living a life worth living and chock full of healthy coping when things don’t go your way. I couldn’t help but reach out to see if I could re-post them here for you. Read and Practice Away!

http://www.marcandangel.com

Marc and Angel are the authors of 1000 Little Things Happy Successful
People Do Differently. Here’s their amazing list of 5 Things Emotionally
Stable People…. If you enjoy this, be sure to visit their website for
more inspirational advice and tips for life.


 

From Marc and Angel Hack Life:

Recently I received an email (creatively) titled €œEmotionally Stable
People Don’t Do This from a reader named Karl. In it he describes
a rather chaotic emotional roller coaster that he’€™s been on for the
past few years, personally and professionally. And then he wrapped up
his email with this:

€œTruly, I love your book and blog. Both have helped me get through
some seriously tough times. But even though I’ve made progress, I
often struggle with my emotions. I persistently let every little
problem get the best of me. So I was wondering, what do emotionally
stable people NOT do? I’€™m asking because, even though I’€™ve made
progress, I know I’€™m still holding on to old habits that are holding
me back. I need some reminders of what NOT to do!

There are a million ways to answer Karl’s question (especially as it
relates to his unique life situation), but since emotional stability is
something all of us struggle with at times, I figured I’d take a stab
at answering his question in a general sense, for all of us. Here’€™s
what emotionally stable people don’t do:

1. They don‘€™t take other people’€™s behavior personally.
It’s easy to feel unloved and unwanted when people aren’€™t able to
communicate and connect with you in the way you expect. And it’s so
hard not to internalize that disconnection as a reflection on your
worth. But the truth is, the way other people behave and function is
not about you.

Most people are so caught up in their own problems, responsibilities
and struggles, that the thought of asking you how you are doing
doesn’t even cross their mind. They aren’t being mean or uncaring they are just busy and a bit self-centered at times. And that’€™s
OK. It’s not evidence of some fundamental flaw on your part. It
doesn’t make you unlovable or unworthy. It just means that some
people aren’€™t very good at looking beyond their own egocentric
bubble. But the fact that you are,€“ that despite the darkness you
feel, you have the ability to share your love and light with others€“
is an incredible strength. (from the œRelationships chapter of
our book)

2. They don’t just react they respond mindfully.
A reaction is a hot, thoughtless, in-the-moment burst of emotion
that’€™s usually driven by our ego (we €™are more likely to react when
we a€™re disconnected from our rational mind). It might last just a
split second before our intuition kicks in and offers some perspective,
or it might take over to the point that we act on it. When we feel
angry or flustered after dealing with a situation or person, that’s a
sign we’€™ve reacted rather than responded mindfully. Responding
mindfully will leave you feeling like you handled things with integrity
and poise.

3. They don’t get stuck thinking the world is ending.
Sometimes the darkest times can bring you to the brightest places, your
most painful struggles can grant you the greatest growth, and the most
heartbreaking losses of relationships can make room for the most
wonderful people. What seems like a curse at the moment can actually be
a blessing in disguise, and what seems like the end of the road is
actually just the realization that you are meant to travel a different
path.

No matter how difficult things seem, there’s always hope. And no
matter how powerless you feel or how horrible things seem, you can’€™t
give up. You have to keep going. Even when it’s scary, even when all
your strength seems gone, you have to keep picking yourself back up and
moving forward, because whatever you are battling in the moment, it
will pass, and you will make it through. You’€™ve made it this far, and
you’ve felt this way before. Think about it. Remember that time
awhile back when you thought the world was ending? It didn’€™t. And it
isn’€™t ending this time either. (from the Adversity chapter of
our book)

4. They don’t tie their present emotions to past negativity.
When we’€™re in the here and now,€™ it’€™s much easier to cope with
emotions and see them as just that: emotions. If we get caught up
obsessing over the past, emotions and situations can take on new (and
untrue) meanings as they become attached to stories. For example,
imagine you just got turned down for a new job. Naturally you a€™re
disappointed. But if you a€™re not present with that emotion, and
instead try to act like a tough girl or guy by burying it, the mind
delves back into your past for all the other times you’ve felt that
way. Now you feel like a failure and you start to carry a feeling of
unworthiness into every future job interview.

When we stay present, we’€™re empowered to start fresh every moment and
we can see every situation with a sharpened perspective, which allows
us to grow beyond the negative emotions (and outcomes) standing in our
way.

5. They don’t spew hate at themselves.
When you catch yourself drowning in self-hate, you must remind yourself
that you were not born feeling this way. That at some point in the past
some person or experience sent you the message that something is wrong
with you, and you internalized this lie and accepted it as your truth.
But that lie isn’€™t yours to carry, and those judgments aren’t about
you. And in the same way that you learned to think negatively of
yourself, you can learn to think new, positive and self-loving
thoughts.

You can learn to challenge those false beliefs, strip away their power,
and reclaim your self-respect. It won’€™t be easy, and it won’€™t
transpire overnight. But it is possible. And it begins when you decide
that there has to be a better way to live, and that you deserve to
discover it. (from the €œSelf-Love€ chapter of our book).


 

Pretty cool stuff, huh?! I really liked the simple steps. Now that you know what not to do … go practice the new steps until they become second nature, until they become you!

http://www.marcandangel.com

Marc and Angel are the authors of 1000 Little Things Happy Successful
People Do Differently. Here’s their amazing list of 5 Things Emotionally
Stable People…. If you enjoy this, be sure to visit their website for
more inspirational advice and tips for life.

What to do with my emotions????!!!!!

What the fuck are my emotions good for anyway?!?! If this statement resonated with you, read on … If it doesn’t read on, too.

In my line of work I meet so many people who were never taught the answer to this question. They were brought up thinking that emotions were something to be tamed, controlled, eradicated.
The idea that emotions are not intelligence is lie. Emotions are a form of intelligence. They are your first intelligence system. The one that informs the meaning making system (i.e. Thought). You can tap this larger intelligence by embracing your emotions and learning how to effectively use and express them.

The ability to effectively use and express emotions is known as self-regulation. Self-regulation is important. It helps us get through our daily routine, create intimate relationships, parent effectively, and manifest the life we want, rather than the one we were handed.

The point is not to get rid of your emotions, but to use them to your advantage. If you are asking how the heck do I do that, read on.
First you must get good at tagging your own emotional experiences. My sadness and joy will look different than yours. Know what yours feel like by following the physical sensations it brings … slow down here take time studying your own experience … many emotions have similar sensations. For example anxiety/fear have a similar somatic (body) presentation as excitement. The way to know the difference is to pay attention to what triggers it, the situation, and circumstances taking place. These become big clues to what you are really feeling (note: don’t get caught by what others tell you you are feeling. Only you will know). Begin this practice by spending time each day noticing what you are feeling, thinking, and sensing. As you take this moment internally, notice what is going on around you externally. Aim for practicing 3-5 times per day. The point of the practice is to notice, not to change anything.
Now that you have a better understanding of what you are feeling emotionally, begin to pay attention to what triggered this emotion for you. This circumstance or internal state gives you clues as to how to deal with the emotion. Did you lose something you cared about? This may mean sadness and grieving is needed. Allow yourself to feel sad for the thing you lost. Did someone cross one of your boundaries or did something unjust happen to you? This might mean you are angry and need to set a boundary, say no to something or someone, or take an action to make an injustice right. Is the physical sensation one of openness, warmth, or buoyancy? Maybe you are feeling happy, joyful, or content. Look around, notice what triggers it, and soak it up.
Paying attention to the physical sensations using mindfulness (focusing only on the sensations for a moment) allows you to neurologically wire in new neurons for experiences. In any given moment there are thousands of choices, allowing yourself a deeper understanding of the experiences you want, makes it more likely you will choose the options that support these desires – what you want rather than what you don’t.
If you spend a lot of time noticing your sadness, despair, anger, guilt, shame, etc you are telling your mind to go find more of these. This is where your attention is, therefore what you find more of. I know this isn’t easy. Everyday I work with folks who suffer from depression, anxiety, psychological trauma, physical issues that impact mental health and I know changing thoughts and behaviors is not easy. However in the witnessing of human experience I know things follow attention. When one of my clients begins placing attention on what they want rather than what they don’t, they get better. Remember sustainable change happens in small increments. Begin by placing your attention on one more positive item today then add another tomorrow.
The other thing I know is placing this positive attention on things is not meant to sugarcoat all the shit that happens in life. It doesn’t fix problems, rather it gives you more strength to deal with them as they arise. When you are dealing with things as they arise they don’t pile up and become festering wounds that get infected and impact all areas of your life.
Last thing on emotions for today. They are ALL valid and welcome. All of them. Even the uncomfortable ones. My hate informs me as much as my happy. My guilt helps me grow and my shame tells me where I need to step up, listen to myself, and how to connect to my community, should I want to. My anger sets strong boundaries so I get a stronger sense of self and more depth to the relationships I want to deepen. Can my emotions become toxic? Absolutely.
That’s why it’s so important to deal with them as they arise instead of pushing them away. If I don’t honor my anger and set a boundary my self esteem suffers, soon my shame builds, and then I might get stuck believing it will never get better … aka despair. Getting stuck in despair can lead to depression and now I’m stuck in ruminating thoughts about how horrible I am so I don’t get out of bed and my daily activities and relationships suffer. The spiral can be a slippery slope and hard to get out of.
The good news is, the same why I can go down … I can also go up. I spend a moment deepening my knowing of my joy, and because I know it better I have it more often. As a result I find more opportunities to build it, and I find myself in situations with people I enjoy who support me. My self esteem builds because I am doing things I feel confident in and the people around me are accurately reflecting me. This helps build my personal sense of self authentically and congruently (with how I too see myself). Now I’ve got a stronger sense of self, take on new challenges, and begin to engage in life more fully and more inspired.

Making Sense of Physical Sensations

How much thought have you given to how much you judge physical sensations, label them, and then operate as though they are truth? How often have you used anxiety, excitement, or guilt to create a physical sensation to motivate you? Continuing from May’s concept of emotional and physical health connections, this month lets look at those most primitive and un-regulated body pieces to our intelligence – sensation.

Many of us feel a physical sensation and immediately jump to a conclusion about what it is, why it’s there, and react as though it must be true. Really, these items – like hot, cold, tight, loose, rough, soft, sharp, empty – are just information about what is going on in this moment, not the next one, not the one before it, this moment. Using mindfulness and curiosity it is possible to gather more information about what these physical sensations mean. We can then use them to inform our responses from an empowered place rather than react without considering the possibilities.

Begin to get comfortable with your body. How comfortable are you with the feelings (sensations) of your physical body? Are there areas you love? hate? ignore? that take more attention and focus than others? Are there places you feel strongly? Do these concepts even make sense?! If not you may want to slow down and consider how do you feel right now in your body? The trick to this exercise is to remember there is nothing to do, nothing to fix. It’s just about noticing what is going on in your body right now? Where is your attention drawn? Do not judge. Then use curiosity to “hang out” with this area and notice. What can you learn about this part of you? Where are it’s edges? Does it have a color? If it had one word what would it be telling you? Is it familiar? How is it different from similar past experiences?

As you begin this practice you begin to notice more and more of the body’s wisdom and you become better able to listen to it. Once you are able to hear what it has to say, listen to it. Follow it’s guidance and use this information to help you live a more embodied life. Living in your body isn’t just about shaping it. It’s also about enjoying it and living from within it. Embrace it’s wisdom and it will lead you toward a fuller and more engaged life.

The Body’s Wisdom

The body holds many truths. When we tune into the body we can tap into our personal wisdom, get our own message, and lead a more fulfilling life.The body houses a lot of information and experts tout it doesn’t lie. For many we spend most of our time in “our heads”. We think, and we think, and we think. We try to reason, rationalize, justify using our thoughts.

Our minds work really fast. They are very efficient and keep us busy. Our bodies on the other hand move at a slower pace and don’t hold our attention as well unless we’ve got a pain or problem and then we become consumed with the problem which doesn’t move us forward either.

By slowing down we are better able to tap the wisdom of the body and get information about what we want, need, and desire. My experience has been the body knows. The body knows and it is honest, sometimes painfully so. But by tapping into that knowledge I make better decisions because I have true knowledge about what I want or need in that moment. By tapping into the knowledge housed in my body I have been poised to make better decisions about my life, my work, my daily activities and my life is fuller and more joyous because of this gift.

Try it Today:

To begin carve out quiet space. Begin by breathing – just noticing the breath. Feel the breath going in and out, how your breath feels in your body as it goes in and out. Once you have gotten calm, ask the questions:

What do I notice about my body? (sensations, feelings, tightness, space, etc – describe it)
How do I feel about that? (Is there an emotion tied to that feeling? Can I name it? What do I notice about that emotion/feeling?)
What does this body feeling have to tell me right now?

See what arises. Notice and stay focused on your body and breath. What seems clear to you now? Just notice what information comes up for you.

If you find your attention wandering, gently bring it back to your breath and begin where you left off. This is a practice – be patient with yourself. The work is in practicing not in achieving results.

**If you find feelings, emotions, etc too strong it may be a good idea to seek a professional to help you process them.**