Most of us are used to live a fast paced life, with innovative ideas popping up every week, start-up businesses rising up all the time, economies fluctuating and politics and wars that never seem to bore. All of that with our friend ‘social media’ that allows us to keep track of it all. Now we are being forced to slow down a few gears, and our creativity, perseverance, and patience is being tested.
All this change can be stressful and we might experience a lot of emotions that come with it. Our fast paced lives provided us with many possibilities and distractions, which now seem to have disappeared. To distract oneself can be a powerful way to deal with emotions and stress. With the current pandemic we have one very big subject to think about and we have much less distractions to take our mind off of it.
How we deal with our emotions is important, not only for our wellbeing, but also for us to be able to adapt to an ever changing environment. We can deal with our emotions differently and one person can be more successful at this than another. Each day we are trying to deal with how we feel by decreasing our negative emotions and/or increasing the positive ones.
‘If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude’
– Maya Angelou
A person can experience road rage while standing still in a traffic jam after a long day of work. He might notice this rage and want to deal with it by distracting himself by turning on the radio and listening to some music or radio show. He might also want to do some breathing exercise to calm down. These are examples of reducing the negative emotional state that person is in.
This person can also look at the emotion he is sensing and try to look at it another way. The traffic jam might give him time to reflect on some things. Maybe he is angry because he experienced a lot of stress lately that has built up and this traffic jam is just too much to handle right now. Now he has the time to think about it and put things into perspective. This might give him a sense of understanding and control over his emotions and make him feel better. This type of dealing with emotion is called ‘reappraisal’ and it requires more time and energy.
Some people are programmed in such a way that when they sense that they could be feeling a negative emotion, they can recall a happy memory which leads them to be in a pleasant emotional state. Hence, we are all capable of achieving this by implying it into our lives. Every time we think we might get mad, sad, frightened, or irritated we can think of positive things. In this way we do not allow the situation to control our emotions and we can increase our positive emotions.
‘Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth’
– Marcus Aurelius
We can either distract ourselves or try to create a new perspective. Both ways are successful in dealing with our emotions, however, distraction has shown a stronger effect. The problem now is that our lives have been changed dramatically and a lot of our distractions are gone. We either need to create new ways to distract ourselves, or try another method to deal with our emotions.
It is common sense that positive emotions are good for you, however, do you know why? I am sure you can think of some reasons. I will provide you with some more, and also some ways in which we can implement them into our lives more often. I believe that positivity is a choice. We might not be able to choose what changes, but we are able to choose how we respond to it.
Positive emotions contribute in achieving success and psychological growth. They are good for your mental and physical health and they contribute to more satisfying and lasting social relationships. We try to increase our positive emotions by doing social activities, doing things we are passionate about, working towards a goal to get a sense of achievement, and by participating in spiritual practices such as prayer and meditation.
‘Positive thinking is more than just a tagline. It changes the way we behave. And I firmly believe that when I am positive, it not only makes me better, but it also makes those around me better’
– Harvey Mackay
Positive interventions in psychological treatment are done by encouraging well-being instead of decreasing the problems we might have. Thus the focus is on the positivity in our lives. Negative emotions can narrow our mind, which can be convenient if we are trying to solve something or maybe run away from danger. Positive emotions can temporarily broaden our minds in order for us to think more creatively.
There are different strategies we can use to experience more positive emotions during the day.
- We are able to choose the situations in which we enter, or do not enter. We can decide to watch a movie with a friend for example. The choices we make are mostly based on the emotional outcomes we expect. We might expect that watching a movie with a friend brings us joy, and this can be a reason to do so.
- We can also adjust the situation once we are in them. If you agreed upon meeting with your friend, but now you have to decide which movie you are going to watch. A situation that can bring us happiness, does not guarantee it will. Hence, this is why we can still change it by choosing the right movie to watch that you and your friend like.
- It is not always possible to change the situation. Another great way of influencing our own emotional state is by shifting our attention. Maybe you end up not liking the movie, however, you did get some well-deserved rest.
- The way we interpret situations has a huge impact on how we feel. Changing our perspective can enhance the positivity in a situation, even when at first this does not seem possible. How great is it that you have a friend you can watch movies with?
- Another way is to show our emotions. If we show to our friend that we are having a good time, this not only increases the positive feelings of your friend, it also enhances your own emotions.
If you have experienced this text to be helpful and insightful, please share it with others. Let us spread love and awareness together. Let me know what you think of this post in the comments below or send me an e-mail. I encourage you to share your experience or thoughts!
Boden, J. M., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997). Repressive coping: distraction using pleasant thoughts and memories. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73(1), 45-62.
Kanske, P., Heissler, J., Schönfelder, S., Bongers, A., & Wessa, M. (2011). How to regulate emotion? Neural networks for reappraisal and distraction. Cerebral Cortex, 21(6), 1379-1388.
Quoidbach, J., Mikolajczak, M., & Gross, J. J. (2015). Positive Interventions: An Emotion Regulation Perspective. Psychological Bulletin, 141(3), 655-693.