Break Emotional Habits
Learning to control emotions seems impossible when you are overcome with negative feelings. Over time, dealing with stress and anxiety, we begin to feel that our emotions control us more than the other way around. We are constantly feeling emotions, conscious or unconscious. These emotions are always driving actions, whether we realize this or not.
The brain associates emotions with a stimulus
Our bodies also create connections between the things that stimulate our emotions. When we feel happy or excited about something, our brains create specific neural pathways to remember what brings us joy. And Vice versa. When we feel anxious or fearful, our brains associate that feeling with whatever made us feel that way. When you are stuck in a place of negative feelings, it can seem impossible to control emotions.
The issue lies with unconscious emotions. When our emotions are unconscious, we allow ourselves to be controlled by them. However, it is possible to hack into our emotions and regain control.
The physiological response to emotions
Our brains constantly release chemicals into our bodies. These chemicals are based on the emotions we are feeling. When something makes us happy or excited, our brains release endorphins, and we feel good. Our brains then make neural pathways connecting positive feelings with whatever makes us happy. Our brains do the same thing when something makes us anxious or aggravated. Our brains release cortisol or adrenalin.
We build habits when we have the same emotional reaction to the same thing more than once. These habits are the things that drive our unconscious emotions. This is when it can feel like we can’t control emotions. But our brain is malleable. When you are aware of your emotional habits, you can break them.
5 steps to learning how to control emotions
There are five steps to learning how to control emotions. The first step is recognizing when something happens that brings out negative emotions. After you feel the emotion, you are at a “choice point.” You can choose to feel differently in that moment.
To help break the negative feeling, take a breath and forgive yourself for feeling negative. Then decide how you want to feel instead.
- recognize the emotion
- choose to feel differently
- take a breath
- forgive yourself
- decide how you want to feel
Finding the emotions you WANT to feel.
It’s easy to be aware of how you feel, but identifying the feeling you want to have can be a challenge at first. The steps become easier through practice, and your brain anticipates the positive over the negative. You may even find yourself unconsciously preparing yourself for things that may have once resulted in a negative emotion.
The best way to start this practice is to first write down the things that trigger a negative response. Writing it down will help you better prepare for your triggers. The more you practice these steps, the more you will be able to control your emotions.
Consistency is the basis for learning how to control emotions.
All actions are driven by emotions. Most people allow unconscious emotions to drive their actions, even after learning the steps to control emotions. But through conscious emotions, we can break emotional habits. However, it takes time and consistency to redesign your neural pathways. By practicing conscious emotions consistently, we can learn how to control emotions.