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Do you have ANTs in your brain? (DW#482)

Let’s review some fun facts about thoughts and the way we think.

Did you know that the average person thinks between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day? The thoughts that pass through our brain last only split seconds and range from the mundane -- I need to do groceries, to the significant – My family really matters to me, to the self-destructive -- I'm not good enough.

And did you know that most of these thoughts are the same thoughts we think every day? Our thoughts seem to be on autopilot most of the time and appear to come from nowhere.

AND did you know that the majority of these automatic thoughts are negative. (The reason for this is rather interesting and something that we will deal with on another day)

Psychologists have coined a phrase for these thoughts: ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts.

I like to think of them as ANTs eating the positive side of my brain. A yucky but powerful image, wouldn’t you say?

How many ANTs can...

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The link between thoughts and feelings (DW#481)

Over the last little while, we have been talking about the link between emotion and motion – in other words how taking action can change your feelings. 

This week, let’s explore how we can sometimes get to the very source of negative emotions to prevent them rather than changing them once they appear.

Before I explain this further, let’s do a quick exercise. 

Imagine that your family is rushing to get out of the house in the morning and you are trying to do several things at once: get ready for work, make sure the children have everything they need for the day, feed them breakfast and connect with your spouse about the evening plans. It is one of those days and everyone is running a bit late. 

Get the picture?

Now, just as everyone is about to bolt from the breakfast table and get into the car/bus/bicycle, your six-year-old spills the entire box of cereal on the floor. Oooops. Now everyone will be late for sure.

What is your reaction? 

Do you think:...

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What can actors teach us about love? (DW#475)

Have you ever wondered why actors/actresses who play the role of a couple in movies often end up falling in love with each other? Well, of course they are usually young, attractive and spend a lot of time with each other – all of which are predictors of selecting a mate.

There is, however, one more thing: They have to act like people who love each other deeply. They lovingly gaze at each other, touch each other, flirt and generally do things that people in love do. With all of these loving actions, it is not surprising that the feeling of loveoften follows.

What can we learn from this? That if you act like lovers on a set with your significant other, it is quite likely that you can kindle or rekindle the feelings of love.

You don’t even need to spend hours with a makeup specialist. Try it!
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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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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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