Do your emotions sometimes get the best of you?
This of course is a rhetorical question; none of us are immune to being controlled by what we are feeling in a particular moment.
What about this question…
Have you ever let your emotions stop you from doing or achieving something that you really want?
I’d bet that your answer to this question is “Yes”, if you are being totally honest with yourself.
Well, what I’m about to suggest may just trigger an avalanche of angry comments on this blog, but here goes anyway…
Your Emotions Aren’t Real.
There you go. But before you launch into an angry rant about how you have no control over what you feel, let me qualify my statement.
Your emotions are simply a psychological state that is triggered by a series of neurotransmitters in your brain that fire off as a result of something you DO (not something that happens to you). By DO I mean the way you respond to a particular stimulus. Emotions aren’t something we can find inside your head if we were to cut it open. They are just a feeling we have allowed ourselves to experience, be it useful or not.
When we apply this theory to running, there are loads of great examples that demonstrate how what we DO can dictate how we feel and ultimately the results we create in our lives.
You pass someone at the 60km mark of a 100km race that is just walking, but smiling and encouraging people as they pass. You ask them how they are going and they tell you that they have got terrible stomach cramps and they have been throwing up for the last hour, unable to eat anything. This person could very well have to drop out at the next aid station, except for the fact that they have carried on behaving like they are fine. They are smiling instead of feeling depressed, they are encouraging others instead of feeling self-pity, and they are staying positive instead of worrying about how they are going to keep their food down for the next 40kms.
What it comes down to are habits that you have taught yourself to fall into over the years. Habits that can be unlearned and replaced with more effective ones.
This runner is more than likely to feel better soon and be able to eat some food and begin running again. Alternatively, he could let his emotions get the better of him and drop at the next aid station.
Take note of how your body looks and feels when you are scared. Take note of how it looks and feels when you are depressed. Or how it looks and feels when you are anxious. We all change our physical state into something that matches what we are feeling on the inside. This pattern is anchored deep down in our subconscious, but the beautiful thing about this is that if you consciously change your physical state then your mental and emotional state will follow suit to match the physical one and your subconscious doesn’t know the difference.
The upshot of all this is that with enough practice, you can change the way you feel by simply controlling what you DO with your body.
Don’t believe me? Try it on the small scale first.
The next time someone does something that would make you mad or lose your temper, pause and force a small smile onto your face while you slow and deepen your breathing. Relax your brow (which is probably starting to wrinkle up with the anger), open your eyes a little wider and unclench your jaw. Your face is now one that simply can’t display anger. That emotion will begin to dissipate very quickly and you now have the chance to respond in a more effective way to this person.
Sounds easy enough right? Well it is, IF you focus on what your body is doing and intentionally DO the opposite of what it wants to do instinctively. If you focus on trying to stop the emotion itself, you are likely to fail. Instead, let your body lead your mind.
Disclaimer – Obviously mental illness is real and serious and there are many people that require medical or other support to help them manage their situation. What I’m talking about here is simply taking back some control over the emotions that get in the way of you being the best version of yourself in your day to day life. Try this technique, but if you feel your emotions are adversely affecting your health, please seek professional advice.