When I think about emotion the words feeling, mood and energy come to mind. I enter a state of nostalgia, recollecting moments of sadness, joy, and everything in-between. Memories of sad times bring a deflation of energy and my body slumps. On the contrary, with joyful memories, I feel myself smile and glow. My thoughts triggered a mood, a type of feeling which lingered.
In the world of psychology, this mood or emotion is termed “affect” (1) because emotions prompt sensory feelings (2). The emotion is triggered by our perceptions and thoughts. Throughout life, we build up a library of experiences connected to the emotions they triggered. The associated emotion is triggered when we have the same experience again (2). For example, if you were afraid of delivering your first presentation, your brain is programmed to remember to be afraid next time you present.
The brain is trying to anticipate what you need to be able to give you the right energy balance. Unfortunately, the remembered emotion may not be the desired one. The good news is that you can rewire your brain to develop a new emotion connected to the experience.
Whilst negative type emotions may be uncomfortable, they hold valuable information about what needs to change. Only through recognising this can we make changes for growth. Each one of us can learn this emotions management which identifies negative emotions to then encourage positive emotions that help us to grow and flourish (3).
How to Manage Emotions
There are many ways to encourage emotional intelligence, however, here are 5 techniques to get you started.
- Recognise the emotion being experienced – do not avoid negative emotion. The more you suppress it the greater it will amplify. Try and catch the emotion, observe it, and name it. This acknowledges its presence.
- Understand the message – once you have named the emotion attempt to understand why it is there. What is it trying to tell you? If it is fear, what are you afraid of?
- Rename the emotion – staying with the example of fear, perhaps you can rename it “excitement”. The unknown can often bring up fear, however, when we visit a new holiday destination we have never been to, we are excited. Aim to see this situation as a new adventure. Avoid assuming the outcome will be bad because it could well be amazing!
- Incorporate more activities that bring you joy – there are so many things you can do here. Learn something new that triggers your curiosity, savour moments instead of rushing or multitasking or reminisce by looking at pictures of joyful moments in your life. The more you experience joy, the more resilient you will become to deal with varying emotions.
- Get the basics right – ensure you have a good sleep routine, get some exercise, and eat a balanced diet. This is the foundation for your energy. Unless this is right it will be difficult for you to engage with negative emotions. We remember to charge our mobile phones, and we must remember to do the same for ourselves.
A word of warning – you will never get rid of negative emotions completely!
Whilst positive emotions are the fuel for growth, negative emotions are a catalyst for change. It is important to learn the ability to embrace negative emotions because there is a wealth of information for us. I call negative emotions “signals” indicating there is a message for us. It is almost like receiving a text message. Digest the message and respond by taking meaningful action.
The message these signals are offering could be one of many things. Here are a few examples:
- Fear – are not trusting the situation but trying to control it?
- Anger – are you giving your power away too often?
- Anxiety – do you need help with something?
- Guilt – are you compromising your integrity?
- Stress – is there a better way?
Psychologists call this ability to navigate highs and lows “Emotional Agility”. When we are successful, we grow as individuals and start to rewire our brain with new emotions and habits. Catching and observing emotions will soon develop into a habit if you do it often enough. Consequently, you will feel more confident and empowered to take meaningful change in your life (4).
See negative emotions as a gift, an invitation for change, growth, and improved wellbeing.
- Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2, 271– 299.
- Barrett, L. F. (2017). How emotions are made: The secret life of the brain. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
- Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Bloomsbury Publishing.
- David, S., & Congleton, C. (2013). Emotional agility. Harvard Business Review, 91(11), 125-131.
Main Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay
Happiness image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay