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Feeling Low? Try this (DW#472)

When we are feeling down, it is tempting to get under the covers and not move. We tell ourselves that we will get out and do things once we feel better. If the mood lasts for more than a few days, we may be tempted to reach for a pill (or other substances) to make us feel better.

But get this: there is credible research that movement and exercise is as effective as Zoloft in reducing depression.

 
In The How of Happiness, a book which we have talked about before, Sonja Lyubomirksy walks us through a little experiment.

The study involved splitting clinically depressed people into three groups: The first group did four months of aerobic exercise (three sessions of forty-five minutes each) while the second group took the antidepressant Zoloft and the third group did both.

By the end of the four months, all three groups had experienced their depressions lift and reported fewer dysfunctional attitudes and increased happiness and self-esteem.

Lyubomirksy concluded...

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Taking action can change your feelings (DW#471)

emotions feelings objective Oct 15, 2018

We have been discussing how feelings come and go, and how we can learn to accept our emotions.

It bears repeating that emotions by themselves do not force us to do anything. Nor do they, by themselves, ever get us into trouble. 

Our choice and responsibility kicks in when we decide how to act, not when we are feeling the feeling. In other words, it is our actions and behaviours that have consequences for ourselves and for others. 

If we only work when we feel like it, it will get us fired from our jobs. If we lash out at our children every time we feel frustrated, the authorities might step in (not to mention that our children will be traumatized). If we act on every sexual temptation that we encounter, we will likely get divorced. If we act out every angry feeling we have, we may end up in jail. Do you get the picture? 

This is why it is so crucial to differentiate behavior from internal feelings and emotional states: we feel how we feel but we need to act in...

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Do you have feelings about your feelings? (DW#460)

emotions feelings Sep 28, 2018

Yesterday we talked about how it is more effective to notice and label emotions without adding our judgement to whether they are positive or negative – good or bad.

One way to look at this is that we can stop having feelings about our feelings. 

Here is how one author explains it (apologies as I cannot remember who it was!):

At least half of our negative emotions would disappear if we did just one thing: stop having feelings about our feelings.

For example, if we are sad about something, we become mad at ourselves on top of that, for being sad. So, now not only are we sad, we also are beating ourselves for it. So this becomes like a wounded person, who starts beating themselves for being wounded. 

When we do this, three things happen:
1) We never treat the wound itself. And what happens to a wound that isn't treated? It is more likely to get worse rather than go away. 

2) We cage the original emotion, rather than letting it take its course and flow away...

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Name them to tame them (DW#458)

A simple first step towards building emotional intelligence is to notice and label the feelings you are experiencing at any given time. 

Although a simple exercise, it can be challenging at first to name an emotion and it is easy to mistake a thought for a feeling. 

An effective way to begin this practice is to get in touch with the physical sensations in your body. When you experience an emotion, electric signals are triggered by your brain to your body and show up as physical sensations such as changes in heart beat, in pace and depth of breath, in muscle tenseness and change of temperature on your skin. 

You can take a moment to check in with yourself right now. Close your eyes and get present to what is happening inside right now. Begin to notice your breath and your heart rate. Do your muscles feel tight or relaxed? If tight, where is the tightness precisely?
Once you get comfortable with a neutral reading of your body, you may want to practice thinking about a...

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Why focus on emotions? (DW#450)

emotions feelings opinon Sep 14, 2018

How are you feeling today? If you are feeling good, happy, confident it is likely that you feel ready to take on the world. You feel like nothing can get in your way. You are productive and energetic. 

If on the other hand, you are having a bad day, feeling sad, anxious or upset for any reason, you may be lacking this confidence and energy. 

If you are angry, and you end up losing control, your emotions can get the best of you and cause you to act in ways that you later regret. 

So let’s be honest: how we are feeling on a day to day basis impacts how much we enjoy life and how productive we are. 

But emotions do much more than that. 

Here are some reasons, we need to become smarter about our own emotional state: 

1)   Emotions motivate us to act. The word emotion itself comes from a word which means to move – in other words emotions cause us to take action
2)   Because they motivate us to act, they predict...

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You’re right. (DW#441)

We have been discussing the best words and phrases to say in a close relationship. Last week we explored the importance of speaking up when we disagree with something or see it differently. 

Today’s phrase is the other side of the equation. Saying "you’re right" can be very calming and disarming to a loved one who is trying to get a point across. It can be very tempting to go into defensive mode when a spouse or a family member is expressing a complaint. Stubbornly sticking to our point of view in the face of all evidence, however, can be exhausting, emotionally draining and very damaging to the relationship. So if we can just breathe, calm ourselves in the moment and try to see even a grain of truth in what they are trying to express, we will be richly rewarded. 

Research by Dr. John Gottman has shown that this is particularly challenging for men and men who are able to accept influence from their wives are much happier and are in happier relationships. Of...

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I feel... (DW#435)

Many of us have been trained to deny, suppress or hide feelings from others, and sometimes even from ourselves. Suppressing and hiding feelings is almost guaranteed to result in personal distress, and in emotional distance and detachment in relationships as opposed to connection. 

And so it is a good idea to practice emotional literacy – that is to get in touch with what we are feeling – and then to share those feelings with our loved ones to build connection and intimacy. 

The first step to sharing feelings is, of course, to recognize and label the feeling itself. 

Once we recognize how we are feeling, sharing those feelings is quite simple, really. It begins with two short words: "I feel….". 

I feel happy.
I feel neglected.
I feel respected.
I feel grateful.
I feel distraught.

Notice that there is no "I feel that  . . .". The word "that" usually indicates that what will follow is going to be a thought, not a feeling. 

For...

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Your mindset and your love life (DW#383)

One of the most profound applications of Dweck’s research on mindset has to do with its application to our closest relationships. 

Dweck and her colleagues found that people’s mindsets greatly impacted how they dealt with their personal relationships. 

Over the next few days let us look at key ways in which our mindset can help or hinder our family relationships. 

Firstly, Dweck’s research implies that people with a fixed mindset tend to believe that there is one special ‘soul mate’ for them, a ready made person who will complete them, make them happy and provide them with everything they have ever longed for. According to Dweck, "In the fixed mindset, the ideal is instant, perfect, and perpetual compatibility. Like it was meant to be. Like riding off into the sunset. Like "they lived happily ever after."

People with a growth mindset on the other hand, are more likely to engage with someone who has a realistic perception of them, who may see...

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The 36 Questions that lead to love (DW#366)

Have you heard of the 36 questions that lead to love?

 
The theory behind this experiment was that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness.
 
The authors said: "One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure."

Being vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult (especially these days when we spend so much effort in self-protection), and so this exercise encouraged self disclosure by asking a set of structured and increasingly personal questions. 

The study involved asking strangers to engage in a 45 minute conversation where they asked each other the set questions. After 45 minutes of engaging in such a dialogue, the participants that they felt closer to the other person and...
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Express physical affection (DW#345)

Science is making it clear that our brains and our bodies are designed to thrive with affectionate touch from our loved ones.

While we affectionately hug and cuddle young children naturally, this seems to taper off as they grow, although human beings never actually outgrow their need for loving touch.

Various studies have shown that people of all ages experience increases in physical and emotional wellbeing when they experience affectionate and appropriate touch.

Studies have found that when a husband holds his wife's hand during labour, for example, her pain measurably decreases. And interestingly, the more empathy a person feels for the person in pain, the more their brains are synchronized and the feeling of pain diminishes.

Scientists have also found that subliminal touching (touching so subtle that it’s not consciously perceived) dramatically increases a person’s sense of well-being and positive feelings toward the ‘toucher’.

One study found that people...

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