Controlling our emotions…

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Here are two identical twins Emily and Sophia.

Every little thing makes Emily fly off the handle – from the traffic on the roads, to waiting in a long queue, to stumbling upon mean people. Her mood and her happiness is directly determined by the things happening around her.

Sophia on the other hand doesn’t let the little things in life get to her. She remains calm, controls her emotions, and on a continuous basis is much more happier with life than Emily is.

Looking at Emily and Sophia, which twin would you like to spend a day or two with?

Most certainly Sophia for me!

The difference between them is choice.

Controlling our emotions becomes very much like our choice. It is rather like developing a skill that may take ages to get used to. And as humans, we tend to struggle with change the most.

When a particular emotion bothers us, the last thing we want is to deal with it pro-actively. Instead we want to rant about it, which ultimately brings us no good. While emotions are a crucial part of life in helping us to know ourselves and to connect deeply with other people, as soon as when we act on our emotions too quickly, or we act on the wrong kinds of emotions, we often make decisions that we later lament.

To tackle this, it is very important to identify our emotions- and allowing them to be seen. Monitoring them will help to create awareness about the particular emotion that makes us have a conniption fit.

Then allow yourself to discover why you feel this emotion. This could be due to many reasons like a low self-esteem, insecurities, etc.

Once we figure out what circumstances or situations have a major affect on us, we must find a solution for it. In reality I have noticed that a lot of times I feel emotions that arise when someone says something to me. But a simple solution for that would be to laugh about it! Nobody in this world has control over our emotions, it is always our choice.

Another thing to remember is that many times we react a bit too soon. A sudden wave of anger hits us and we do stupid, unnecessary things (which becomes our greatest regrets later on!)

For this it is important to distant yourself from the situation or the person for a little while whenever you get an emotional upsurge. Take time to stabilise yourself and your overwhelming impulse. Calm yourself, think with a rational mind and only then act on it. Never act on a strong emotion, which most of the times I notice is anger.

This is, indeed, easier said than done. However, many people believe that they will be free of anger if they express it, that their tears release pain. But this infact is an often harmful concept that has proven to be completely wrong. It sees the brain as a steam kettle in which negative feelings build up pressure. Meaningful friends often tell us to  “cry and let it all out!”. But in reality this helps no one. Controlled studies show that tears can drive us still deeper into depression, and that fits of rage are more likely to intensify anger. Ultimately, it brings us further down in the dumps. People who make the effort to control their emotions not only live a happier life, but are favouring their health too, (Increasing the activity of the left side of their prefrontal cortex).

So recognise your triggers and take charge of them. Quiet down your uneasy mind and you decide how you want to feel – just like Sophia!

Anatomy of Happiness

Of all life’s emotions, happiness is the most desirable. One day when I was particularly exhilarated, I tried to pen down all that I was feeling, the entire rainbow behind this feeling…

Here are my thoughts I tried to turn into a poem!

 

A feeling so magical

Flowing deep inside me

A respite from reality

I feel so free

 

Pursuit of happiness

Our eternal right

Far and far away

to a land of delight

 

No fear to fail

No agony in sight

Where shivers of joy

Just feel so right

 

A flight of fancy

Is what it seems

A place so far

Like distant dreams

 

The Elysian air

That caves me in

To a golden dream

Of celestial bliss

 

Depth of ecstasy

All around me

Raptures of felicity

Is all you see

 

A state of mind

I’d always want to be

Far from boredom

Far from misery

A mystical kingdom

I never want to leave…

 

-Saania

Forget the past, remember the lesson

The past often traps us in this overwhelming bubble that seems to hold us back from doing more. Events from the past seem to have a mind of their own. Memories keep recirculating when all you want is for them to disappear. Indeed, how nasty! 

But as I always say, our happiness is our responsibility alone, and not anyone else’s. 

Healing is a process, and like any other process it takes time. Just like to heal a wound we need to stop touching it, to move on with life we need to let go of the past. So many times we feel that things could have gone better and so we feel anger, guilt, or shame. These feelings come because the actions we did or the things that happened to us are not in line with our current morals and values. But if anything, these are cues to push harder. I always like to believe that even the worst of things have something to teach us, and while it can be difficult to always apprehend this, living is a process of developing oneself which only happens when we continuously learn. And the truth is, there is always something to learn, and there is no better way of getting out of this bubble and moving on than to learn from the past. We all have our weaknesses, which when left unaddressed, limit our potential for impact and significance. Discover them – and that can only happen when reflecting upon the past. Every new day presents the opportunity to become a better person on a better road destined for a better future. The talents we use to navigate and provide value to this world define the lives we live and the change we can offer. And by recalling our strengths in the past, we can recognise our opportunities in the present, in a better way.

Because after all, that which does not kill us outright makes us stronger. Our pasts have the power to bring us down to our knees, but an even stronger power to make things better. Accept that, and trust that! 

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.” – Jean Paul Sartre

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You are your own boss

So many times we find ourselves in a rut. The continual pressure to look good, to perform well, to compete for affection very well puts our body and mind in stress.

But somewhere down the line I realise that each day we are given a choice of taking control over our life, or of letting external things control it.

There is a brutal truth that not everything is in our hands, and that is often understood when people treat us a certain way, or when things unexpectedly happen to us. Infact, events in life rarely go exactly as planned. But unfortunately, that’s the way life works – there will always be people to tell you things you don’t agree with, things you will get disappointed about, things that will derail you from perusing your dreams, things that will literally bring you down on your knees. But our job in this world is to accept, and flexibility requires having a mind that is open to changes, open to disasters, and yet still willing to move forward. It also just happens to be that nobody can do it for you. The choice to keep moving forward, to repaint our life, to react positively to knockdowns are decisions that only we can make. So at times when life is not sunshine and rainbows, taking control, moving on with full incentives, being proactive, creating goals, making plans, being productive will all help in stepping back to regain your perspective – what you are doing and what you want to achieve.

And to achieve big things, it is important to stay positive even when life throws you offtrack. Albert Einstein once said, “We all need to see the Universe as friendly.” This is true wisdom coming from a great man who knew more about the nature of things than anyone. So it can be difficult to always stay on course, and everyone gets stuck in a funk from time to time and it’s not always easy to shake it off. But remember that you are the captain and you can navigate your world to better doors of success!

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The Power of a Smile

When we smile, our body releases endorphins. Dopamine, serotonin are all the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters that get activated.

The mere act of smiling can change our brain chemistry too, and spur a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that makes us happy. According to Ron Gutman, the author of ‘Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act’, British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulations as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate, (I find that hard to believe!). There are numerous health benefits associated with a smile too, in dealing with stress, panick attacks, blood pressure, and even living a longer life. (A study from London University College stated that happy, cheerful people are 35% more likely to live longer). Moreover, smiling adds luminosity to our face, and makes us have a ‘natural glow’.

All that being said, there is so much magic a flash of a smile can do!

I recently read a chapter of the book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie. In that, he explains a really profound example of the inducing power of a smile. So here’s a short story:

There was a veterinarian whose waiting room was full of clients waiting to have their pets inoculated. No one was talking to anyone else and everyone were just hoping they would be anywhere but there, sitting and doing nothing. There were about six or seven people dejectedly waiting when a young woman with her nine months old baby and a kitten entered the room. She sat down next to this distraughted gentleman who was irritated by the time taking service. A few moments later, the nine months old baby just looks up at him and gives him a big, heartwarming smile and the next thing he knows, a smile strikes across his face too! Very soon, the entire lifeless room lights up and boredom is converted into happiness.

So we can very clearly see that this outward sign of contentment is even capable of influencing others around us. My sister and I sometimes also like to play a game where we smile at people and see how many people smile back. Most of the time, there are so many people who give a genuine smile back to us 🙂

I also find people who smile so much more attractive than people who have dull, tedious, subdued looks on their faces. Many people have a gloomy, despondent outlook on life. They are sour, cynical as well as cantankerous. On the other hand, when you smile, people treat you differently. You are viewed as someone who is attractive, relaxed, optimistic and sincere. A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing an attractive, smiling face activates our orbitofrontal cortex, which is a region in our brain that processes sensory rewards. So when viewing a person smiling, we actually feel rewarded. What’s more, I’m pretty sure we all have heard that smiles are ‘contagious’!

This was just a short insight of the magic behind smiling, as I like to call it: The Power of a Smile, indeed capable of doing a lot. Share your smile with the world.  After all, it is a free therapy, good for you and even better for influencing others around you!

“Beauty is power, a smile is its sword” – John Ray

Insecurity – What holds us back

We all doubt ourselves sometimes.

Thoughts like I am not as attractive enough or I’m not as smart and intelligent enough or not as well-situated in life as I should be. Even the feeling of having all the potential in the world, but that something being there to hold us back.

Comparing ourselves to the people around us, and that just makes it worse.

I find myself in these infuriating situations all the time. In fact even after achieving what I want to achieve, these questions still come, am I really good enough, is this person better than me, am I really there yet?

What I have also realised is that a lot of my insecurities exist where I have yet to prove myself to myself.

These are all examples of insecurities and self-doubts.

But what I have learnt (and am learning) from all of this is that if we push ourselves to do the things that we are afraid of (but really really want), then we slowly cross items off that mental list of things that make us feel insecure. What we fear about the most often shows us what we care about the most. Hence, overcoming the fear lets go off the insecurity (constantly wondering if you’ll ever get there and what people think of you).

Many times our insecurities tend to tell us that we are not capable of achieving something great. However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go for it.

In fact my insecurities often make me want to go for it and prove to myself that I actually can do it.

Something that makes us feel even more miserable is when we think that everyone can see our insecurity. However, after all it really is something that is invisible and no one can see it but you. While it truly makes us self-conscious and self-doubtful, only we can see what our mind tells us, and what we can deliberately work upon.

On a slightly different note, dealing with our insecurities can become a lot easier when we slowly start to discover ourselves.

For this, I recently researched about something known as the Johari Window.

 

This is a simple illustration of what a typical Johari Window looks like.

It was actually created in 1955 by two psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham. It is an exercise that helps people to understand their relationship with themselves and others better.

In the first block “known to self and known to others”, you can list adjectives and characteristics that describe you. These are the characteristics that you recognize in yourself but that also others mention when they talk with you. This block is called the arena (or open, as it describes the attributes that we usually feel most confident about). We can express them openly, and others apprehend them clearly.

The second block is “known to self and unknown to others”. Here you can write down things that are a part of you but that you do not show to others. This block is called the facade or hidden because these are the things you prefer to hide from others. For example, you might hide a strong will to compete but you keep it to yourself in favor of pleasing others – a very common situation.

The third block is “unknown to self and known to others”. This is the Blind Spot and it can be very difficult to manage, and can cause others to talk behind your back. This is because they can see something that you don’t.

The last block is “unknown to self and unknown to others”. This is hence called unknown. Which means it will never become the subject of discussion.

Knowing who you are is an essential part of achieving a meaningful life, and the aim of this Johari Window is to know your true self through analysation.

Yes it has other uses like in businesses, etc, but I thought I would include it in this topic too as it has some correlation.

“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.”

More about Happiness…

 

We define mindfulness as the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present .

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied this state of being and coined the term Flow.

His research suggested that money and luxury doesn’t bring people happiness.

He found that humans are at their happiest when in flow.

Now, what is this flow? 

Being completely absorbed in an activity for its own sake, giving your heightened attention to just one thing.

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This is an example of a diagram that Mihaly illustrated in one of his books :

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

What this shows is that based on the intensity of challenges and skills, If what we do has a high level of challenge and we use our skills at the maximum level, then we enter the state of flow. This is a state of deep happiness, where one  exhibits their creativity, potential and be accomplished, in control with an intrinsic motivation.

Achieving the flow involves certain factors.

Choosing a task. A single task that can be done in solitude. There are endless examples like playing the piano, running, writing, dancing, singing, etc. 

Allowing enough time. Setting aside a lot of time so that the mind can be fully immersed in that one task. 

Setting clear goals. What you are doing and why you are doing it? 

Near balance of a challenge-to-skills ratio. Flows exist near the midline of boredom and anxiety. If the task is dull, you disengage. If it is too hard, fear spikes and we look for a way out. The challenge needs to be slightly greater than our skill so that we stay in the sweet spot.

The flow is important to not get distracted by little things and being able to focus on one task to complete it. It’s a great way to bring peace in our daily lives and living every moment to the fullest with lasting satisfaction.

“To be able to concentrate for a considerable time is essential to difficult achievement.” – Bertrand Russell

Saania Saxena 🙂