Master Your Emotions: A Practical Guide to Overcome Negativity and Better Manage Your Feelingsby Thibaut Meurisse
This book provides detailed answers to the questions of the origin and function of emotions, their role, and how they affect our lives. It also offers concrete and practical techniques for changing our negative emotions, using negative emotions for growth, awakening positive emotions, influencing our mood, and transforming our lives for the better.
“Thus, if you want to be happy, you must take control of your emotions rather than hoping you’ll be happy because it’s your natural state.”
Our brain's job is not to make us happy but to help us survive. Our ancestors required a survival strategy because they were continually confronted with life's hazards; our brains evolved in a constant scanner for danger.
The problem is that there aren't as many life-threatening situations nowadays, yet we still have that brain in our heads. That’s why we have biases toward negativity. Fear of rejection is one example of a negative bias - it was important for our ancestors to stay in a group because they had a better chance of survival.
Although the role of the brain is not to make us happy, the feeling of happiness and contentment plays a vital role in survival, and the neurotransmitter dopamine is responsible for this.
Dopamine rewards certain behaviors essential for survival, such as foraging for food. Dopamine is also activated when we use social networks (because it was important for our ancestors to hang out in a group, so our brain rewards connecting with tall people), when we have sex, etc. The problem is that dopamine creates addictions, such as gambling and playing video games. That's why it's essential to recognize how much dopamine governs our behavior.
The ego is also a factor that governs our emotions. It makes us identify with various external things, and then, if they do not conform to our expectations, we experience negative emotions. The ego is the self-identity we've developed throughout life through thoughts and the mind.
Every emotion has its function, and every emotion depends on the way we interpret reality and events.
Actions to take
Understand What Impacts Your Emotions
“If we exclude spontaneous emotional reactions resulting from your survival mechanism, most of your emotions are self-created.”
The good news is that we can change our emotions when we understand what causes them to appear. Factors that affect our emotions are the survival mechanism, the way we perceive and experience reality and life situations, our body, our eating and sleeping habits, and the environment in which we live.
Sleep deprivation has many side effects, such as anxiety and low concentration, inability to deal with negative emotions, and increased mortality risk. A bent body position causes the emotion of depression and low mood, while a body position with a straight spine and head held high causes confidence and happiness.
We must also not forget about breathing - for example, slow breathing reduces anxiety. If we don't breathe properly, we don't have enough energy, affecting our emotions and mood.
The way we think and the words we use affect our emotions. Positive words create positive thoughts, which lead to positive thoughts and behaviors. Negative words do the opposite and bring us into negative states.
Our environment greatly impacts our mood, including the space we live in, the people we hang out with, and the content we watch. To prevent negative feelings, we need to keep our space from being overcrowded with things, hang out with positive people and watch content that is not negative but inspiring and positive. We should not forget the influence of music on our mood - relaxing, motivating, cheerful music is the right choice for evoking pleasant emotions.
Actions to take
Hack the Emotion Creation Process
“Your tendency to identify with negative thoughts repeatedly is what allows them to grow stronger.”
The process of emotion formation consists of the following four phases - interpretation, identification, and repetition, which ultimately create a strong emotion.
Interpretation implies how we interpret an event. Then comes identification, when we identify entirely with the thoughts that occur to us due to our interpretation of events. Repetition represents the automatic repetition of the same thoughts constantly. By constant repetition, that emotion becomes part of our identity.
In the future, that emotion can be activated whenever some thoughts or related events arise. For example, you made a mistake at work and feel embarrassed by it. You keep coming back to the same thought about that situation, and as a result, your emotions of inadequacy increase.
Actions to take
Change Your Emotions
“In itself, an event or a thought has no power to alter your emotional state. What generates emotions is the way you choose to interpret the event or thought.”
There are many ways we can change our emotions. Some of them are: letting go of emotions, conditioning our mind, changing emotions by changing behavior, and changing emotions by changing our environment.
Quick techniques for changing emotions include relaxation, distraction, changing the position and body movements, expressing the emotion with voice - shouting, deciding to do what we have to do despite our emotions, and consciously observing our emotions (through writing or talking about them).
Techniques for changing emotions that give long-lasting results are analyzing negative emotions, avoiding negativity, conditioning our minds, raising energy, and asking for help.
Actions to take
Use Emotions to Grow
“Your emotions send you a message. They tell you that your current interpretation of reality is biased. The problem is never the reality but the way you interpret it. Never forget, you have the power to find meaning and joy even in the worse situations.”
All negative emotions have a purpose, and we can use them for growth. First, we need to focus on our feelings and analyze them, interpret where they come from, and understand what we need to do to make them disappear.
Here is how can we use the most common negative emotions for personal growth:
Feeling that we are not good enough can help us work on our self-worth. We can use resentment to face, forgive and release the burden of anger.
Stress and worry can serve as a reason for us to change our belief system. Jealousy can encourage us to discover our deep desires and needs and explore our qualities instead of comparing ourselves to others.
Depression can make us change our lifestyles. We can use fear to confront it and thus get out of our comfort zone.
Procrastination forces us to investigate our excuses and find reasons for being unproductive. We can solve the lack of motivation when we start developing self-discipline.