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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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Behaviours not feelings determine how our life turns out (DW#470)

communication emotions Oct 12, 2018

We have been discussing how we can act in our own best interests even if we do not feel like it. 

I love the way Dan Millman puts it: 
"Of course, we don’t love painful feelings like anxiety or depression. We don’t have to love or even like them, but we do have to accept them, as difficult as that can seem at times. Emotions, no matter how painful they are, are not the problem. The problem is dropping out of schoolor work, putting your family or duties of life on hold until such time as you can work out your emotional issues. Would you rather feel depressed while sitting alone in your room trying to figure it all out or feel depressed while getting your house cleaned or your project completed? (You may still feel depressed, but you have a cleaner house.) 

So emotional intelligence does not mean that we do not have strong (and sometimes negative) feelings. The idea is that we can feel strong emotions but still be functional. We can act in our best interests...

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Separating feeling and acting (DW#469)

emotions self development Oct 11, 2018

Let's assume that we all agree that exercise is a good thing. 

Are you one of those lucky people who love to exercise and look forward to going to the gym? 

Or are you amongst those who don’t necessarily feel like it but decide to do it anyway because you recognize that it is good for you?

Or do you wait until you feel like exercising and then do it? (How long have you been waiting by the way?)

Even though we don’t always use it, human beings have the ability to not act on every feeling and to act even when we don’t feel like it. 

In other words, 

1)    We can do what needs to be done even if we don’t feel like it (exercise, go to work, cook dinner etc.)

 

2)    We can stop ourselves from doing things which will harm us, either now or in the future even if we really reallywant to do it (eat too much, have junk food, have a fight with the neighbor, tell our boss off . . .)


So we have...

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Make it your own (DW#468)

One of the most inspiring and heart warming moments for me is when a reader takes a suggestion and makes it their own. 

A young lady wrote and shared that when she read about the six second pause, she realised that it was the perfect amount of time to remember God and His most beloved ones. 

She said that she will be using the six second pause to say this:
Allah, Mohammed, Ali, Fatima, Hassan and Hussain (May the peace and Blessings of God be on all of them). 

It reminded me that when I am feeling angry, unforgiving and my heart is constricted, I remember the most beautiful names of God to ground myself: 

Ya Rahman, Ya Raheem, Ya Karim, Ya Salaam
O All Compassionate, O All Merciful, O Most Generous and Noble, O the Source of Peace

If we adapt the pause to something that is meaningful for us, we are MUCH more likely to use it. 

So go ahead and develop a mantra of your own. What helps you to calm down and get back on track? Practice using it frequently so that it...

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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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The anatomy of an emotional hijacking (DW#463)

Overreactions are often referred to as "flooding", "emotional hijackings" or "amygdala hijackings". 

The term hijackings is appropriate as the rational or thinking mind (the neocortex) is basically hijacked or flooded when we are emotionally overwhelmed. 

In order to prevent and deal with such flooding or hijacking, it can be very helpful to understand how our brain is designed to react to danger. 

To put it extremely simply, when our brain senses imminent danger, a whole system gets into action and blasts adrenaline into our bodies to cope with the perceived danger at hand. The thinking parts of our brain shut down and we react instantly. When there is an actual danger, this automatic and immediate response saves our lives. 

If we see what looks like a snake for example, it is much wiser to react instantly to protect ourselves rather than to look at the snake, consider the actual danger and plan a course of action. 

In situations like these, the brain...

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