You can live a healthy and happy life, but you must first realize that your priorities need to match your intentions. Let's start by talking about emotions, and how they effect our motivation.
Why are we so Emotional?
The reaction to a particular feeling accompanied by the physiological changes that motivate a behavioral response, are known as an emotional response. Emotions, like happiness and joy are crucial to our overall health. As we discuss topics on historical emotion theories, expressed emotion, experienced emotion, and emotional management, we will consider the necessary skills it takes to manage our everyday emotions. Examples will demonstrate that through meditation, exercise, and gratitude we can learn to control our emotional responses, for the good of our well-being. Research shows we can live a happier life if we are healthy in our mind, body, and soul.
How to Live a Healthy and Happy Life.
Emotions are part of our human composition. They’re a natural instinctive state of mind derived from our circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. Whether you’re feeling elated or depressed, your emotions influence your well-being, and can range from one extreme to another. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and people know when I’m upset, agitated, or joyful. Even though I can’t hide my emotions, I’ve learned how to manage my responses, and cope with the feelings that arise. You may not be able to control the how or why of things that happen to you, but you do possess the ability to control how you respond to them.
“Emotions lead to coping activities. A common response to the repression of unwanted emotions is displacement, where we act out our frustration in other ways” (Minds, 2016).
Emotions affect your mood and ‘emotional state', thus your mood affects your judgement, and that changes how you process decisions. Let's explore the physiology of emotion, and learn some techniques for coping with our daily up’s and down’s. How do arousal and expressive behaviors interact in emotion? Does your bodily arousal come before or after your emotional feelings? When we are able to identify that the physiology of emotion is linked to arousal of the nervous system with various states and strengths of arousal relating, apparently, to particular emotions, we can begin to search for the answers of why and how.
There are several theories that you may or may not relate or agree with. The 'James-Lange theory' identifies that first comes conscious awareness, then the feeling. The Cannon-Bars theory identifies that bodily responses, and experienced emotions occur separately, but simultaneously. Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer believed that emotional experience requires a conscious interpretation of arousal. To experience emotion, one must be physically aroused, and cognitively label the arousal. This theory is known as the two-factor theory. The ability to relate, and identify with a theory will also assist in your capability to deal with your emotions. Once you know how and why they occur, you can learn how to manage them.
Expressive behavior implies emotion. Detecting emotion in others' body language or facial expressions typically occurs through non–verbal communication. I have always thought myself to be very “expressive” and “emotional.” To me, these are positive traits, and when managed well, assist me in my personal and professional success. A smile is universal—it greets every individual with the notion of happiness, and/or excitement.
This makes me wonder, do other emotions vary in different cultures? I think for the most part, our facial expressions can describe how we are feeling no matter what our cultural background. When it comes to gender it’s been discovered that a women’s non-verbal sensitivity helps explain their greater emotional literacy. (Meyers, 2014). There are several distinct emotions such as happiness, surprise, anger, fear, shame, and guilt. The ingredients of emotion include not only physiology and expressive behavior, but also our conscious experience. (Meyers, 2014).
Managing our emotions, especially stress is necessary to achieve optimal health. There are several ways to manage stress and other negative emotions. In the sections below you will learn some techniques that will help do just that. Meditation is one way to create clarity and peace in your mind, and can also lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen consumption. Meditation has helped me become more focused and balanced with just about everything in my life. It allows me to have a moment to reflect and experience gratitude for all that life has given me. It takes some time and focus in the beginning, but it’s a bit like reading a good book. Once you’re all in, you can read for hours, and it only feels like minutes.
After a while you may begin to realize that meditation is a gateway to the unknown. You might experience self-discovery and peace. If you’re anything like me, you will probably start out by organizing your grocery list, or putting a phone conversation into perspective, but eventually you will learn to just sit there and relax, as if you’re in a faraway land getting a relaxing massage. Exercise is also a great stress reliever. It increases your dopamine production, and releases endorphins into your brain. I call them ‘happy chemicals,' but not to be confused with mind altering drugs. Ever notice anyone at the gym, moping around? It’s highly unlikely.
“When you exercise, you’re actually subjecting yourself to a low-level form of stress by raising your heart rate and triggering a burst of hormonal changes” (MindBodyGreen, 2016).
I believe that your mental health is just as significant as your physical health, and you must be mindful about nurturing them both.
Take time to fall in love with who you are, and accept the emotions you emit. Take some time to reflect on your day, every day. Maybe you’ll choose to write in your journal, go to the gym or spa, or call a close friend to talk. Nurturing yourself both physically and mentally will increase your happiness. It’s okay to be sad or upset from time to time, but don't live in that state. Let your feelings and emotions find their way into a space where you can process them with intention and care. There's a saying I use, and I think it will applies to just about every situation you incur—"Don't let you emotions overpower your intelligence." Let this saying be a part of your duty, to yourself—to nurture your heart and soul. Maybe you’ve heard the saying “Always kiss me Goodnight”? That means don’t go to bed angry. I think you will find that it's most always more productive to respond, rather than react.
Life is not guaranteed, there is no promise to how long we get to live on this earth, and each day is a new day. I encourage you to be grateful for life’s little challenges, because they are what help you to learn and grow. Gratitude is important—when you are thankful for the things you have, and the things you have accomplished, you are able to share that joy with others. I believe that kindness inspires kindness, and kindness evokes happy emotions in your thoughts and feelings. Happiness doesn’t just feel good, it does good.
Have you ever heard that a smile is contagious? A smile is an expression of positive emotions. Did you know that it takes more muscles to frown than smile? That means it takes more energy to be angry than it does to be happy. Even when the world seems to be crashing down around you, you always have something to be thankful for. Some days may be harder than others to find that gratitude, but if you look with mindfulness and awareness, you will find it.
Being happy takes less energy than being sad or mad. If you find yourself saying I’m “overwhelmed,” or “I’m exhausted,” try changing your language. Overwhelmed could mean you’re in high demand, and that’s a positive thing. It means someone needs you, and you’re very important! Exhausted could mean you’re recharging. We all need time to recharge in today’s busy world.
"Recharging equals nurturing which equals happiness" (Robbins, 2003).
Happiness, gratitude, and motivation are all positive emotions that will support you in living your best life. No matter what you believe, the fact remains that motivation is a driver to success and happiness.
Motivation is defined as the general desire or willingness of someone to do something. We’ve all experienced being unmotivated, and we’ve all desired to have more motivation. So how do we get it? What drives motivation? From a psychologist’s point of view, it depends on one of four theories. Instinct theory, evolutionary perspective, drive reduction theory, and arousal theory. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs also describes how our needs can take priority over others (Meyers, 2014). To have more motivation you must be willing to make the sacrifices, and prioritize your goals. I wanted to lose 10 lbs., so I began walking. I walked every evening for one hour (roughly two miles). I wasn’t the fastest or the thinnest walker in the neighborhood, but I was consistent, and I sacrificed one hour of my day, every day. After just three weeks, I was already halfway to my goal, and the feeling of accomplishment kept me motivated to continue. This physical exercise also created feelings of happiness, because I was seeing my success, and feeling the physical attributes of my accomplishment.
Sure, all of this is information is interesting and potentially useful, but you might still be wondering, how does one find the motivation to exercise and meditate regularly? Life is busy, and being motivated takes energy, but you need energy to get motivated. I know, it seems a bit like a catch 22, but I can assure you it is not. The first step to motivation is getting positive. With a positive mind, and the right goals, motivation will become abundant. I challenge you to take your newfound motivation, and apply it to just about anything you desire. If you don't know where to start, try leaving yourself inspiring little messages on the bathroom mirror. Then continue to speak only positive words into your mind throughout the day. To keep up your motivation, you must agree to be accountable. After you have set a goal, or made a commitment you can almost always count on an emotion trying to derail you. You procrastinate or don’t follow through, because you're too tired or don’t have the time. I think it’s time to ask yourself “why” you behave like this? Is it a learned behavior?
Implementing activities that can help you control stress, anxiety, feelings of sadness, or anger will aid in your success. You DO possess the ability to control your emotions, just as you control your thoughts and routines. If we “get positive” we can strengthen our feelings of motivation and accomplishment. I also believe that there has to be a happy balance between activity and calm. Exercise and motivation will keep you, and your brain active and happy, but we must allow ourselves some time to renew and recharge, too. Mediation and gratitude can give you the ‘emotional strength’ you need to carry out day to day tasks, but being aware and accountable are still your keys to success, on either side of the spectrum.
Count your blessings, and focus on others needs, because happiness increases helpfulness, and don’t forget to nurture yourself. You can express your gratitude on daily basis through positive self-talk, prayer, and community service. I recall a time when it was difficult for me to feel motivated. I was tired all time, and lost interest in many social activities. My emotions were all over the place. When things were good, they were good, but when they were bad, I would just fall apart. I defamed myself with harsh judgments, and began self-loathing. I felt as if I was in a shame spiral and I needed out, but how? Well, I met a beautiful soul that shared a special message with me, and it saved my life. “He said, my heart is shelter, and my arms are your home.”
It was then that I began my journey to a new metal state of mind, implementing meditation, exercise, and positive self-talk. Of course, my emotions still run deep, and they aren’t always ‘positive’, but I now possess the tools to cope with them. Emotions are a part of our human composition, and although we cannot avoid having them, we can learn how to control our responses. If you want to live a happier life, you must get healthy in your mind, body, and soul. To change your life, you must first change your priorities.
Psychology. (2015). Textbook (Tenth Edition.) Hope College Holland, MI: Author, David G. Meyers.
Awaken the Giant Within: How to immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny. (2003, 1999). New York, New York: Author, Anthony Robbins.
Changing Minds.org. Emotions. Retrieved November 30, 2016 from this website.