This week: A deep dive into navigating our negative emotions.
According to Positive Psychology, negative emotions are defined as “as an unpleasant or unhappy emotion which is evoked in individuals to express a negative effect towards an event or person.” We usually experience 8 negative emotions. They are:
Anger, annoyance, fears, sadness, anxiety, guilt, despair and apathy.
Negative emotions are completely common as they are a part of our ingrained DNA. In fact, it’s with these unique “coding” that we developed ways to respond quickly to different environmental threats. For example, when you see a snake while walking in the woods, the alarm system of your brain aka the amygdala immediately goes off and sends your body a signal to produce a large amount of stress hormone called cortisol. Consequently, your body gets ready to fight, fight or flee in a matter of seconds.
This amazing survival mechanism means when we perceive our environment and safety threatening, we experience fears and anxiety. Our physical state reacts strongly to these negative emotions with blood pressure and heart rate surging up.
Now here is what gets even trickier: Unlike other animals, the amygdala in our brain also contributes to the release of neurotransmitters that are essential for memory. This explains why emotional memories, especially the negative ones are stronger and easier for us to recall.
As you can see, negative emotions are necessary and act as an “alarm” to spur us into action to handle potential threats or dangers. However, if we are constantly experiencing them, our health and wellness will be comprised.
Are You Keeping Your Hand on the Hot Stove?
It’s important and healthy to feel negative emotions, but here lies the question: for how long?
Now take a look at this picture below and ask yourself: How long should you leave your hand on the stove?
You probably find this question ridiculous. Err? I’d rather not leave my hand on the stove at all, thank you very much! But this picture precisely captures our relationship with negative emotions: we tend to dwell on them, even long after we feel the pain and receive the alarm signal.
When we go into a spiral of rumination, we are thinking and obsessing over the negative situations. By doing so, we unwittingly keep setting off the amygdala and our body keeps producing stress hormones as if we were facing that dangerous snake. The results are a long list of undesirable symptoms: insomnia, high blood pressure, clinical anxiety, depression and so on.
Alas, don’t leave your hand on the hot stove!
Stop! Hammer Time…
Since our survival brain(limbic system or part of the left brain)is responsible for hijacking our negative behaviours, we can effectively shift ourselves out of the negative emotional state by activating the opposite part of the brain, i.e, part of the right brain and mid-prefrontal cortex that is associated with calmness, clear focus, compassion and all those goodies.
In this video, I introduced 3 simple yet powerful techniques to take yourself off the rumination train and regain command of your brain. These are mindfulness-based activities that can be done with your eyes open, in public or at work. Each of them can take an effect by as little as 10-second of repetitions!
All of these activities are aims to bring yourself back to the present moment: to your body, your surrounding and your senses. When you are truly PRESENT, you are no longer drawing in the mental chattering but are calm, steady and focused. You can therefore make better choices, see a bigger picture and come up with more solutions.
Just as you can build your body muscles by lifting weights repetitively, you can build your self-command brain muscles by practising these exercises on a daily basis. The recommended time is 15 minutes per day, that’s a fraction of the time that we spend on our devices! Research showed a 6-week of such intentional training brought tremendous results in improving work performance.
So next time when you feel negative emotions, get curious and see how long you stay there. Just remember, you can always choose to take your hand off the burning stove.😉
Interested in managing anxiety and stress effectively?
I can provide you with a unique opportunity to join a 6-week Positive Intelligence training combining with my coaching program. Request a free consultation with me as a below!