Improve Your Health by Increasing Your Happiness
Psychologist Paul Eckman defined six basic emotions that all cultures experience: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, surprise, and happiness. Each of these emotions can take a toll on our health or improve it, as is the case with happiness and feelings of joy.
Likewise, by understanding the underlying physiological changes which occur in the body when we experience a specific emotion, we are able to recognize it and make a shift out of a “negative” emotion (contracted state) into a “positive” emotion (state of expansion = new opportunities).
Kent Boxberger, an Atlanta-based teacher of the Law of Attraction, regularly quoted Abraham in his classes. Abraham is a collective consciousness channeled by Esther Hicks (abraham-hicks.com).
“When you are feeling a negative emotion, stop and say: Something is important here; otherwise I would not be feeling this negative emotion. What is it that I want? And then simply turn your attention to what you do want. When you turn your attention to what you want, the negative attraction will stop … and the positive attraction will begin. And in that moment your feelings will change from not feeling good to feeling good. That is the process of pivoting,” – Kent Boxberger
The ability to experience a wide variety of emotions is what makes us human. Feelings of anger and fear are not necessarily the wrong feelings as these feelings enable us to act quickly in an uncomfortable situation.
What Does Anger Look Like?
Anger can be defined as resentment, irritability or rage. On the physical level, anger can trigger the flight or fight response which includes: an increase in respiration, higher blood pressure, increased body temperature, and the rapid release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The mind becomes sharper too in order to prepare your body for “fight or flight.”
While anger is a normal human response, if not managed anger can negatively impact your health. Staying angry over a long period of time can cause anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, skin rashes, and can increase the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Additionally, remaining in a state of negativity can create chronic conditions of stress, hopelessness and helplessness. It can also create a hormonal imbalance that can damage the body’s immune system (literally making us sick).
Sometimes we react angrily to a situation when it’s really just a response to past experiences we’ve stored in the unconscious mind. If you think you may have been triggered in a current situation by something that occurred to you in the past, consider talking to a good friend or a counselor to get to the root cause.
Shifting Away from Anger
Experts suggest taking the following steps to heal anger:
- Keep a diary
- Learn Ways to Resolve Conflict
- Talk to a counselor
Fear is Normal
Fear is defined as an immediate threat such as imminent danger. It’s an important emotion because it gives us a better chance of survival. The physiological response to fear is similar to anger: muscles contract and become tense, respiration increases, and the heart rate increases. These reactions are important because they help us react quickly. However, if feelings of fear are not addressed, those feelings can morph into anxiety.
Anxiety-based fear can be something such as being fearful over the anticipated results of a situation.
In my communications with those that have crossed over, I am reminded often that we worry too much. In my own life I make a conscious effort to trust more, worry less.
How Can You Reduce Feelings of Fear in Your Life?
In his book, The Conquest of Happiness, mathematician and philosopher Betrand Russell suggested a way to minimize fear and anxiety is to consider what is the very worst that can happen in a given situation – then play it out in your mind in order to neutralize it. Then 1) justify the reasons for the fear and 2) substitute positive affirmations. Taking these steps can reinstate a sense of calm and control over a situation, he said.
“Worry is a form of fear, and all forms of fear produce fatigue. A man who has learned not to feel fear will find the fatigue of daily life enormously diminished. exposure therapy… The proper course with every kind of fear is to think about it rationally and calmly, but with great concentration, until it has been completely familiar.” – – Betrand Russell
If fear is debilitating for you, or if the fear relates to a traumatic experience and you are unable to “get over it,” there is help available. Administered by a therapist, a process called exposure therapy can desensitize you to a specific fear. Another option is light therapy. For example, after I was in a house fire which occurred in my kitchen, I became fearful of cooking; I literally could no longer use my stove. A chiropractor who was well-versed in light therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) used both techniques to eliminate the association I had between cooking and being in a fire. Today, I love to cook!
Disgust is a reaction – such as a sense of revulsion – to people or things that we find evil, immoral or distasteful. When you feel disgust, you may turn away from the object of disgust, you may want to react by throwing up, or you may wrinkle your nose and curl your lip. For instance, if you find something in your refrigerator that is “past its prime” you may wrinkle your nose and feel sick to your stomach. Likewise, if someone you know displays a behavior or does something that seems immoral to you, you may turn away from the person.
Feelings of disgust can give way to being judgmental over someone else, which can lead to negative thoughts about ourselves and anger – and all the physiological responses that go along with it.
“While it may feel bad, disgust is actually a tremendously important emotion. It is part of what fuels our ability to ask for what we want and need, and it helps us find the gumption to act assertively.” – Bill Maier, YourTango.com
Letting Go of Toxic Feelings
- Notice when judgmental thoughts pop up (recognizing the feeling helps you become calm over it).
- Take calming breathes – deep breathing helps reduce feelings of negativity.
- Don’t let feelings control you.
- When you feel disgust, turn the emotion around and focus on feeling kind, respectful and caring. Reframing your feelings can help reduce the emotional reaction you feel.
- Become mindful. Focus on your own wants, needs and feelings. Create a “happy place” in your mind you can retreat to, something that elicits feelings of calmness.
- Talk to someone about how you feel.
Feeling Sadness is the First Step Towards Healing
Feeling sad is part of life: whether it’s sadness over the loss of a loved one, a beloved pet, a job, a marriage, or other life-changing circumstances, all of us feel sad at one point or another in our lives. Know that it’s OK to give yourself permission to feel sad.
“Buddhism teaches that as you sit with your pain and grief, simply noticing it as if you were sitting on a riverbank watching these heavy feelings float downstream, you’ll discover how to live, learn, and heal through it.” – Ronald Alexander, PhD, Psychology Today.
When sadness is not addressed, it can develop into depression, which can impact your central nervous system: speeding up your heart rate and tightening blood vessels. Around 16 million U.S. adults are estimated to have one major depressive episode per year, according to Healthline. While it is pretty common, depression can be hard on the body causing: tiredness, trouble sleeping, irritability, loss of interest, headaches, body aches, lower concentration levels, overuse of drugs or alcohol (self-medicating behavior), over eating or loss of appetite.
Getting Out of a State of Depression is Worth the Effort
Readers were queried on Quora.com on some of the best ways to break the cycle of depression. Here are some suggestions they made:
- Maintain a healthy diet – include Omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins (B complex, B12), minerals and amino acids. Get a massage.
- Try Yoga or Thai Chi.
- Write down things you are grateful for (a gratitude journal).
- Exercise – take a walk.
- Get help (psychologist, psychiatrist, hypnotherapy).
- Volunteer (helps you feel needed and distracts you from sadness).
- Figure out what makes you happy about your daily routine and do it!
- Set life goals that will make you happy.
- Do things that make you laugh (watch a funny movie).
- Find something to be passionate about (writing, painting, sewing, photography, knitting, planting flowers, bird watching, etc.).
- Find things to love about yourself (make a list of your positive attributes and tuck it in your wallet).
“Just when you get into a comfortable routine, expect a surprise along with a bit of chaos, but don’t get dismayed. The wave will crash. The storm will pass. A new routine will surface. It will be alright.” – Beth Frates, MD @BethFratesMD
Surprise! Guess Who?
All of us experience surprises in life – positive, negative or neutral. The experience is usually brief. It’s characterized by your facial expression at the time, your physical response (you may jump backwards in response) or a verbal reaction such as yelling. A surprise can also trigger a flight or fight response such as a rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing. Surprises “stand out in the memory,” in other words, we can retain surprising moments as memories more easily.
What Was That?!
One night, I was about to turn into my mom’s subdivision when out of the bushes jumped a huge deer. He ran across the road directly in front of my car, missing my front grill by an inch. Although that event took place months ago, it still stands out clearly in my memory!
Being Happy or Joyful Makes You Feel Great!
Joy is internal and can be as simple as accepting where you are right now. Happiness is external and usually involves outside parties, or events.
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” – Aristotle
Happiness involves two components: the experience of positive emotions – joy, contentment, love, and a sense of satisfaction you have in your life, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology with the Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley. She suggests drawing a concept map to define what makes you happy.
Happiness can be interpreted as experiencing feelings of joy and contentment, satisfaction, positive well-being expressed as smiling, relaxed stance and an upbeat voice.
Being happy gives you lots of health benefits including a healthier heart, stronger immune system, less stress, and an improved chance of survival (increased longevity).
Many studies show that people who exercise regularly get a positive boost to their mood and experience lower rates of depression. The point is that when you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins intersect with the receptors in your brain and reduce your perception of pain.
Mind over Emotions: Feel Better by Taking the First Step
In order to shift into a mindset of happiness consider taking the following steps: smile, give someone a hug, dress nicely, spend time outside, get rest, meditate, keep a gratitude journal. By asking yourself what you are grateful for, you create emotional resilience and are less likely to experience episodes of depression.
In yoga and in meditation, we are taught to breathe in healing energy and breathe out negative thoughts and feelings. Deep breathing using this method can actually help you become more positive.
To find out where you are on the “positivity scale,” consider taking a test to help you determine your feelings on a daily basis. It’s a great place to start: http://www.positivityratio.com/single.php.
Understanding Your Feelings Can Help You Shift Your Energy Towards a Better Outcome
By identifying our feelings as we experience them, we can hold on to the “good stuff,” and reduce the possibility of drawing negativity into our lives. Sometimes the simple act of saying, “Feel Better,” over and over can help bring about positive change. By thinking about what you want in life in a positive way – and holding that thought for 17 seconds – good things will start to happen. The beginning of a new decade is a great time to start a new habit that will create positive change in your life.