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Recap: Taking action can change your feelings (DW#480)

As a part of our series on emotional intelligence, we have been discussing how we can learn to accept feelings but that we don’t have to wait for our feelings to change before we can take action on our values.

Feelings, as we have been discovering, can often change by changing our behaviour.

Here is a recap of the actions we can take to impact our feelings:

Try power poses to increase your confidence [DW#473]

Smile to increase feelings of happiness [DW#474]
Follow what actors/lovers do on the screen to kindle feelings of love [DW#475]
Boost your own happiness by doing random acts of kindness for your spouse [DW#476]
Act in loving way to feel the feeling of love [DW#477]
Turn fear into courage by taking action in the face of fear [DW#478]
 
Prepare and practice to become confident in any area of your life [DW#479]
 
Which ones did you try? Remember our lives will be positively impacted only by acting upon what we know!

Which ones are the most challenging?

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The two secrets to confidence (DW#479)

Think of when you first started to drive, or learn a language or cook or do financial accounting . . .

Remember how nervous you were? How unprepared you felt? 

So how did you become better in these areas of your life?

You prepared yourself by learning, studying, passing a test . . .

And then you practiced.

A lot.

If you had waited till you had the confidence to do any of these things you would not have taken the car out of the garage, cooked your first meal or spoken a word of another language.

The confidence came from two things: preparing and practicing.

How about applying the same formula to areas of your life where you currently lack confidence?

You already know how, right?

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Turning fear into courage (DW#478)

Fear is one emotion ALL of us have experienced. Whether real or imagined, personal or professional, our hearts have trembled with the prospect of coming face to face with what we fear. 

What is fear, anyways? 

Here is how the dictionary describes it: 
Fear noun "an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm."

Given that all of us do and will feel fear, it may be helpful to recognize that we can still act as we must, despite the feeling of fear. Courage, as it is often said, is NOT the absence of fear but rather taking action DESPITE the fear. 

The idea of taking action is embedded in the very definition of courage:
Courage noun "the ability to do something that frightens one".

To put it very simply:

FEAR + ACTION = COURAGE

So can one turn fear into courage by reading, listening, intellectualizing or philosophizing? 

Sadly, no. 

The only way to foster courage is to practice acting despite the feeling of fear. 

And each...

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Turn that frown upside down (DW#474)

"When you are happy, and you know it, smile a smile". This is how we usually think of smiling, isn’t it?

However, science now suggests that smiling can trick your brain into happiness — and boost your health.

 
It has to do with our hormones. When hormones such as dopamine and serotonin are low in our brains, we experience feelings of anxiety, depression and aggression. Smiling spurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing hormones including dopamine and serotonin which increase our feelings of happiness and reduce stress.
 
And it gets better: we now know that depression weakens our immune system – we are more susceptible to infections when we are experiencing a low mood. Happiness on the other hand, boosts our body’s resistance and increases our immunity. And since smiling increases happiness, it boosts immunity.

The strange thing is that for the most part, the brain cannot detect whether it is a genuine smile or not. It is the...

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Try power poses to increase your confidence (DW#473)

Have you noticed how our posture reflects our feelings?

When we are sad, we tend to look down and frown, when anxious we might tap our feet, fidget or shift our eyes and when we are happy we often smile.

But how we position our bodies doesn’t just reflect how we feel, it can also change how we feel.

For example, if we act confident even when we are not feeling confident, we may increase our feelings of confidence.

According to recent research: "Posture has a bigger impact on body and mind than anyone believed. Striking a powerful, expansive pose actually changes a person’s hormones and behavior, and even have an impact on how you are perceived in the working world," saysWall Street Journal columnist Sue Shellenbarger.

And we don’t have to change your posture or pose for long. A few minutes seems to be all you need to have an impact on our feelings.

In her research with Dana Carney at UC-Berkeley, Amy J.C. Cuddy has focused on...

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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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What can you do in six seconds? (DW#467)

Yesterday we talked about how an emotional overreaction or flooding lasts a mere 6 seconds. 

What you do during those six seconds can be either helpful or harmful in dealing with the situation that you are facing. 

What is NOT useful to do whilst you are pausing is to replay the situation in your mind, think about how the other person is wrong or to plot your revenge.

Instead try this:

  1. Ask yourself: What do you want from this situation and for yourself? 
  2. Remind yourself that you only have control over your own thoughts and behaviours. 
  3. Get in touch with your core values. What do you stand for? What can you say or do that comes from those values rather than in reaction to what the other person is doing. 

These steps will help you gain your composure, to focus on what is most important in the here and now and prepare you to continue the conversation minus the overreaction.

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The good news about flooding (DW#466)

Last week we started talking about flooding (aka emotional hijacking) and how it shuts down our thinking brain and can lead us to behave in ways that we later regret. 

Although it is very uncomfortable and a potentially destructive state of mind, there is one very good piece of news about flooding: It only lasts about 6 seconds. 

Yes. Six seconds. 

So when we encounter an event which is emotionally triggering for us, we can practice waiting six seconds before responding. 

Pausing for six seconds gives the rational brain a chance to process the sensory information.  It allows the thinking brain to put the breaks on the alarm set off by the amygdala reacting to an outside stressor. It allows us to respond based on our values rather than react based on our heated emotions at the time. 

So take a breath and start counting . . . 
1001 . . . 1002 . . .1003 . . . 1004 . . . 1005 . . . 1006

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How often do you get emotionally hijacked? (DW#465)

Even if we have high emotional intelligence, we can expect to feel triggered or flooded occasionally. The sign of having high EQ, in other words, is not that we never get triggered but that 

a)   We get triggered less often
b)   We don’t act on our emotions and 
c)   We are able to soothe ourselves quite quickly.

In her book Stop Overreacting: Effective Strategies for Calming Your Emotions, author Dr. Judith P. Siegel suggests asking yourself the following questions to assess whether you have a problem with overreacting. 

Do you often:

§  Regret things you say or do in the heat of emotion?

§  Lash out at loved ones?

§  Have to apologize to others for your actions or words?

§  Feel surprised at your seemingly uncontrollable reactions?

§  Assume the worst about people and situations?

§  Withdraw when things get emotionally...

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The signs of emotional hijacking (DW#464)

As we mentioned yesterday, an emotional hijack or flooding is an immediate and overwhelming emotional response out of proportion to what triggered the response. Flooding happens because the triggering event has triggered a more significant emotional threat.

The reason we do not behave rationally when we are flooded is because when the alarm system of the brain (the amgydala) perceives a threat, it sparks the brain into self-protective "fight or flight" survival mode with a stress hormone, epinephrine. 

In a fight, flight or freeze mode, the thinking component of our brain is shut down. We simply cannot think effectively and usually cannot speak with clarity or insight.

So how do we know that we are flooded? Experts explain that there are three hallmarks of emotional flooding: 

  1. A strong emotional reaction out of proportion to the stimulus or trigger
  2. A sudden onset – we are often blindsided and cannot understand where this strong reaction is coming...
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