You can decide how you want to feel.
The other day I was on a radio show for the first time. One of the most asked questions I receive after that was “Were you nervous?” when I said yes, then they say “But you were very fluent”.
Of course, I was nervous, but I couldn’t let those emotions stop me from doing something I wanted.
Someone who suffers from the idea of speaking in public does so because he interprets his nerves as something negative, as a signal that his body is sending him to run away from there.
But someone who interprets those same nerves as excitement and a desire to do well is likely to be more successful in their presentation.
Our body provides us with the energy to do something, but how to use that energy is up to us. There are people who pay money and queue hours to get on a roller coaster, while others would not get on even in their dreams.
They both feel the same nerves, but they interpret them differently: fun versus terror.
While it makes sense to feel sad when you get bad news, that doesn’t mean your only option is to stay in a corner crying (that attitude will probably keep you grieving for longer).
For this reason, in this article, I am going to give you proven techniques that are really useful to control your emotions and others that don’t really work.
Techniques That Don’t Work to Control Your Emotions
There are many techniques around the internet that promise to help us feel better and control our emotions in the face of different situations in our life.
The problem with these is that most don’t really work, and even worse, they can negatively affect the way we feel.
1. Try not to think about what worries you.
In the same way that trying not to think of a red car will cause you to end up thinking about it because of a rebound effect, studies have shown that it is very difficult to get our emotions out of our heads with that practice.
With depressed people, that always have negative thoughts, it has been proven that it is totally counterproductive to try to suppress these ideas because they end up coming back even stronger.
2. Relax and breathe deeply.
It is common that people around the world recommend us to relax and take a deep breath when we are angry or very anxious.
But there is a problem. Taking deep breaths and trying to modulate the diaphragm rarely works because the physiological component of emotions is often unimportant.
Most of the time I’ve been upset about something, I was calm and even having a good day before someone bothered me.
So if a previous state of relaxation could not prevent you from getting angry, why do people think that it can do so once you are already angry?
3. Release tension in other ways.
There was a time when activities to release emotions became a trend. Workshops where people gathered to cry or events where aggressive managers broke plates.
The issue is that psychological studies show that this kind of
“technique” doesn’t work. It can even be negative: succumbing to the temptation to destroy everything can increase your aggressiveness in the short term.
Emotions are not contained within our bodies and they need to come out like pressure cookers. What they need to do is understand them to avoid being hurt.
5 Techniques That Help to Control Our Emotions
Emotional intelligence requires you to identify and understand your own moods. It involves recognizing when and why you are angry, nervous, or sad, and acting on the causes and not just the symptoms.
However, on those occasions when you find yourself heading towards a negative emotional state, the following techniques can be effective in stopping or slowing down that chain reaction.
1. Try to remember your virtues and successes.
Every time I feel sad that I am not achieving a goal, I review everything I have achieved so far.
This helps me understand that I am not a failure and that an awful moment does not mean that my entire life is a mistake.
People with greater emotional control use self-affirmation when the intensity of their emotions is still low and they have time to seek another point of view of the situation. Interestingly, this strategy works very well in women.
The next time you feel you’re losing control over your emotions, remind yourself of the things you are proud of in your life.
For example, I was late for work the other day and received a warning.
Instead of thinking about how bad this event was, I thought that I always arrive early, and this was just a day with traffic that doesn’t define my performance.
2. Find the reason for your emotions.
Finding the most appropriate strategy to regulate negative feelings and understand their origin to treat the cause is the best way to prevent them from taking control of our minds.
Many times we focus only on how we feel, but not on why it is happening to us. Thinking about the reason you are feeling in a way helps to understand if it is worth feeling that way.
For example, when I was nervous about speaking on the radio station, I thought about all the positive things that could happen to me if I expressed myself correctly, this helped me transform my fears into emotion.
Has been shown that our body language can influence our emotions. For this reason, if we act like we are confident, eventually our minds will feel confident as well.
When I feel sad or worried, I try to do this routine:
- I ask myself why I feel that way.
- I wonder if it’s worth feeling that way for that reason.
- I think if there are immediate solutions to solve that problem.
- I focus my energies on solving that problem and how I can feel better.
Expressive writing can also help you understand your feelings, that was the reason I started writing for an audience.
Writing has helped me understand the reasons for my feelings in a more objective way because when I read what I wrote back, I can see the situation from another perspective.
This study shows how writing is effective on both a psychological and physical level, that is because expressing feelings in writing speeds up the healing process and helps you find the reasons and seek solutions.
Keeping an emotional journal will help you reduce the recurrence of negative thoughts because you are going to see that this feeling doesn’t stop you in the past.
3. Use cognitive techniques to regulate how you feel.
When we experience a negative emotion, our attention is focused on the thoughts that keep that emotion active. If we continually turn that one thought over and over on our minds, we strengthen those emotions.
For Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology, human psychology is expressed in three levels: Thoughts, emotions, and actions. They are in constant interaction:
Since emotion, actions, and thought works together, if we change the thought we can regulate both our emotions and our actions.
For example, if you think that because you are fired you will not be able to earn money and you will be full of debt, your emotions will be sadness and despair.
But if you think that this will be an opportunity to look for a better job, your mind will evanesce those negative thoughts and start having positive emotions and actions.
Our actions will depend on the thoughts we have. Likewise, these thoughts may act for or against our emotions, depending on the way we do it.
I use this technique a lot when something bad happens in my life. I care more about what benefit I can get from this opportunity and for this reason, my emotions always involve growth actions.
4. Think about your immediate future.
Intense emotions can cause you to forget that there is a future and that your actions will have consequences.
Although at that moment you are only able to live in the present and your frustration, it doesn’t mean that they are important.
Anger or nerves seem so significant to you now, but in the future, that may mean absolutely nothing.
For example, when I fight with my best friend, I always think about deleting all our conversations, pictures together and stop talking to him.
At that moment, it seems to be a correct decision because of the feeling I have, but thinking that in the future we can fix ourselves makes me not take action at the moment.
Thinking about the consequences of your future helps you control your immediate impulses.
In it, children who resisted the temptation to eat one candy for another meal later did better on school tests and better jobs for years to come.
Something that helps me a lot to control my feelings when I get angry about something, is to think if that feeling really matters tomorrow.
Usually, when I get angry about something, it doesn’t make sense next week, so it’s a waste of time to keep thinking about it.
5. Use relaxation techniques to recover your self-control.
Self-control is not infinite.
Several investigations show that we consume our self-control the more we expose it to situations and emotions.
Is like when you are doing exercise. After a good routine, your body is exhausted. For that reason, you need time to recover before training again.
In the same way, if you manage to control your emotions, avoid re-exposing yourself to a tense situation or you will be more likely to fall.
In fact, staying in self-control consumes glucose as if you were literally exercising. Therefore, to regain your self-control you have these strategies:
- Drink something with sugar, like a soda or juice.
- Use a positive affirmation to be able to manage your emotions again.
- Avoid cognitive dissonance. (When you are trying to do things that don’t go with your life philosophy).
- Learn relaxation techniques to rest your mind.
The key is to identify when your self-control levels are low and to avoid further emotional situations as you recover.
We can control our emotions. If we use the correct techniques and do not allow take action by our impulses, we will be able to feel the way we want and be at peace with ourselves.
Knowing how to do it will help us to live a fuller and more peaceful life because we will not need to act based on what our emotions say to us.
“The more social intelligence you have, the happier and stronger you will be, and the better personal relationships you will have.” — Daniel Goleman
The technique that has helped me the most to control them is looking for the reason for that feeling, in this way I always manage to change my nerves for excitement.
Thinking that everything that is currently happening will be worth it in the future, makes me want to continue working on my goals, even if I don’t feel the correct emotion right now.