How to change your emotional response on command

Your brain needs direction; it wants you to lead. You choose where you want to focus your efforts and energy

Faith Wood: How to change your emotional state on commandAre you fed up? Perhaps with politics, taxes, grumpy people or the smoke in the air.

Usually these feelings pass. But when you get stuck in a swirl of negative emotion, the problems of the world seem to pile on and leave you feeling spent.

Perhaps this is what causes normally rational individuals to become aggressive and even violent.

Conflicts live among us every day. Sometimes we can brush them aside without any hesitation. Other times, they drag us into a place where we overreact and wreak havoc.

With the first day of school just ahead and summer ending, I thought this might be a good time to focus on how we can shift away from negative emotions with just a little insight and practise.

My husband and I like to play a bit of golf. Although I’m no expert, what I know about golf is that it’s not a game of strength, but rather a game played between the ears. While some days I can’t do anything right, on other days it’s like I’m charmed. Each shot goes exactly where I want it to and I move around the course almost effortlessly.

Some people think of this as flow or being ‘in the zone.’ I used to put it down to good luck, sunshine and a couple of cold beers.

In reality, it’s the ability to influence your emotional state.

States are configurations of physiology and neurology, body and mind. The following words can be thought of as descriptions of certain states: love, happiness, confidence, sadness, joy, creativity, nervousness, amusement, affection, fear, focus, comfort, relaxation, anger.

Each of these words describes a different experience that any person can have at any time.

The ability to change your state at will is the biggest differentiator between those who do well and those who struggle.

So this little technique might be useful if you’ve ever found yourself in an undesirable state:

  • Identify your current state. Become aware of feelings and sensations, muscle tensions and relaxations. Notice any thoughts, whether pictures, words or other sounds, in your mind. Accept this as your current state.

Lots of people expend tremendous amounts of energy trying to change their state without knowing where they’re starting from, but if you don’t know where you are, navigation can be tricky. And who knows, where you are may have something to tell you before you leave.

Often, we know where we are but we don’t have an inkling of where we want to be other than to say: “I don’t want to feel like this.” As a result, your sense of unrest contributes to you assigning blame to another situation or person.

Your brain wants a direction to go in, it wants you to lead. So choose where you want to focus your efforts and energy.

  • Think of a time you were in the state you want to claim. See what you saw then, hear what you heard and feel what you felt. As you recall the sensations, increase the feeling and then squeeze the thumb and forefinger of your left hand gently together for a few moments and release.

Now break your state (perhaps by remembering what you had for lunch yesterday). Squeeze your thumb and forefinger together again, gently pulsing them, and let the focused state return.

This is called anchoring your desired feelings.

  • Ask yourself: “What am I like when I’m [name of state]?” (For example: “What am I like when I’m really focused?”) Allow yourself to discover the pattern that led you to this feeling.
  • Make a mental picture of yourself experiencing the state you want: how it you would be when you experience this ideal state. Then when you can really imagine the way it would feel, consider stepping into that state and experience the magic of state shifting.

This is a technique I share when I speak about how to be you on your best day. I hope as summer closes, you’ll find a way to create that best day feeling on command.

Who knows, it might just help your golf game, too.

Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. 

How to change your emotional state on command

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