Today we’re talking about how to deal with your negative emotions. If you listen to this episode/ read this post it might be because you are someone who tends to react quickly to your negative emotions (not that it ever happens to me 😅). In fact, because of the violence and traumas I’ve been through in my childhood, I am someone who tends to react quickly to my negative emotions. When I decided to make a change and improve my life, managing my negative emotions was one of my priorities.
Table of contents
- What is emotion? let’s all start on the same page and understand what emotions are.
- Catching the message: we’ll talk about how emotions send us specific messages.
- Generate creativity: the opposite of reactivity is creativity so we’ll see how to generate it more often.
I. What are emotions?
According to the American Psychological Association emotion is defined as “a complex reaction, pattern, involving experiential, behavioral and physiological elements”. Concretely, what’s going on in our bodies when we get emotional? (I am NOT a neurologist and tried to simplify as much as I could a very complex reaction).
Emotion is a very quick reaction that is mainly controlled by the limbic system. The limbic system is a set of structures in the brain that deal with many things including emotions & memories. It’s composed of 4 structures but today I’ll tell you only about 3:
- Hippocampus: stores & retrieves conscious memories. Also provides context to a situation.
- Amygdala: its role is to create the appropriate emotion regarding the signal/information that has been sent previously. Amygdala decodes emotions & stores fear memories.
- Hypothalamus: regulates many functions in the body but in terms of emotions it mainly regulates the autonomic nervous system and you can think of that as the ‘fight/flight’ versus the ‘rest/digest’ response. It does this by controlling the endocrine system by triggering the release of hormones into the bloodstream (ex: adrenaline).
These hormones will be released as little proteins that the blood cells receive. After they are in contact with them, the cells will transform themselves. As blood cells circulate everywhere in our body, they also irrigate our organs. And after each cell of the same organ receives a hormone released by the hypothalamus, the organ transforms itself too. This is why when we are stressed or very scared sometimes we might have a beating heart or chest tightness.
Why is it important to know that?
- Realizing this is understanding that my body can talk to me.
- We need to remember that basically this mechanism is here to help us & support our well-being not to make us suffer. It is thanks to it that human beings are still alive!
- There’s a need to become more aware of our emotions and what’s going on into our body when we experience them.
- Once I understand and am aware of this mechanism, I can consciously create to choose things that cause pleasant feelings to arise in myself.
II. Catch the message
Previously in the 1st post/episode, we’ve seen that there’s a strong link between our thoughts & our feelings. When we react too quickly to emotions we are very reactive & don’t stop to think. Many people want to suppress their emotions: they think the path to happiness is to be always calm & happy but this is an illusion! Because we truly need our emotions!
The aim isn’t to suppress your emotions but to react differently to them. When you start to feel negative emotions arise in you (for example: that you’re going to lose it, say something that you might regret or get frustrated):
- Just stop anything you’re doing and isolate
- Start to ask yourself: what is my body trying to tell me? What is the message that my inner world is trying to send me? What am I thinking right now about this situation?
- As I now know there’s something that I don’t get in this situation. There’s a need that isn’t respected. There’s something that makes me feel wrong.
- Instead of blaming the outer world, why not trying to look within? To understand what I need & what I really want?
- My emotions are my friends not my enemy, they are here to send me a signal and alert me to re-align with my inner world.
When you feel too many negative emotions it’s because parts of your brain are activated too much
When the amygdala is activated often it creates: anger & violence and/or fear & anxiety
As we’ve seen before, the hypothalamus controls that ‘fight/flight‘ versus ‘rest/digest’ response. And the fight/flight response activates what we call the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Over time the increase in activity of the SNS results in something called Sympathetic Nervous System Dominance which signs are:
- tendency to overreact
- pessimistic assessment
- increased heart rate
- shallow breathing or often holding the breath
- lack of focus & self-awareness
- resistance to intimacy
- avoidance or inability to change
- physical/mental health problems (digestive issues, anxiety disorders…etc.)
However, what I want to focus on today is the ‘rest/digest’ response that activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) because over time it results in something called the Parasympathetic Nervous System Dominance where you experience;
- deep learning
- calm/steady breathing
- inner wisdom with solution based, positive self-talk and ability to solve problems
- athletic agility
- brain functions improved
As I love to say, the opposite of reactivity is creativity and when you generate creativity you become the architect of your life.
III. Generate creativity
Now we understand that the aim is to strengthen this ‘rest/digest’ response in order to react differently to our emotions over time.
So how to activate more often your parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)?
The PSNS is best activated during contemplation and the best tool for contemplation is meditation (the most powerful and effective) or any meditative state. So you can:
- Start a meditation routine (key is consistency not length)
- Walk/spend time in nature
- Spend time in silence to observe your surroundings (use your five senses and play with them, what can you smell? hear? touch?)
- Practice any kind of breathing exercices
- Yoga or any activity that generates contemplation (Pilates, Qigong, Tai Shi, martial arts…etc.)
- Any activity that enhances deep thinking
If you have to remember 2 things from this post it will be that:
- Emotions are your friends, not your enemy. Negative emotions are a signal/message from your inner world. The aim isn’t to suppress them but to react to them differently.
- To react in a better way to your emotions, you need to activate more often your PSNS (rest/digest response).
Voila! I hope that you liked the episode/blog post and if you did, let me know in the comments, I always love to hear from you and connect with you 🙂