As we all know, life is full of highs and lows, sometimes very high highs, and sometimes very low lows. Understanding the connection between our brain, thoughts and how we feel is important for managing these changes in life.Often it’s the low lows that hit us the worst and we get too upset about why things are the way they are. However, if we can understand what shapes our emotions and the decisions that we make, this can help us move forward when things don’t happen the way we want them to.
I was reading Sean Webb’s Book Mind Hacking Hapiness which talks about how to understand our emotions, neuroscience and preparing yourself to deal with the unknown in order to control our emotions.
The Thinking-Feeling Connection
We often believe that the feelings and emotions we experience are determined by external events, situations and the behavior of others. For example, you may hear yourself say “My boss made me nervous, My partner made me angry”. What is the assumption underlying these statements? That someone or something other than ourselves was directly determining the feelings we experienced.
We come to these conclusions automatically without asking ourselves if this is true. If we stop to analyze the process that links an external situation to our emotional responses, we will find that there is a step in between.
How our thoughts influence our feelings
What really makes us feel and respond the way we do is how we perceive a situation or a person’s actions. How our thoughts influence our feelings is along a 3 step continuum:
- How you see something or someone
- What you think about it, them or their actions
- Brain interprets these thoughts and beliefs to influence emotions & actions
Often we are not aware of our thoughts and beliefs because they are so automatic and happen quickly, but they are there and greatly affect the way we feel.
Do you know how you are feeling?
It is often difficult to know exactly what we are feeling and sometimes it can be difficult to put it into words. In order to be able to understand the connection between your thinking and your feelings, you need to be able to DESCRIBE your feelings. Below are a list of the kinds of words commonly used to describe feelings
Just as we are not always conscious of the way we walk or how we drive a car, we are often not aware of our thinking. Some thinking patterns are so habitual they become automatic. All the time our brains are turning over thoughts and ideas, however we are not consciously aware of them most of the time. This is because they happen fast and we are not accustomed to slowing them down. Automatic thoughts play an important role in emotional well-being.
There are 3 types of automatic thoughts:
Neutral Thoughts e.g. i think i will eat an apple
Positive Thoughts e.g. This is something i can do really well
Negative Thoughts e.g I often find it hard to concentrate – I must be really stupid
Automatic thoughts often reflect worries and concerns. Negative automatic thoughts are ones that can cause us emotional stress and it is these thoughts that can be changed.
Feelings are not thoughts!
At first it may be hard to distinguish between thoughts are feelings, especially if you are used to talking about them as part of the same experience. It is crucial to separate them and remember feelings are not thoughts!. For example, you may hear someone say “ I think i’m anxious” but they are probably thinking “everyone will laugh at me,” and feel anxious. It’s important to remember and make this important distinction.
HOW THE UNCONSCIOUS RULES THE MIND
Passive Frame Theory – As dubbed by associate professor of psychology Ezequiel Morsella of San Francisco State University, theorizes that nearly all of your brain’s work is conducted in different lobes and regions at the unconscious level, completely without your knowledge. When action is required, only then does the physical consciousness come into play. In order to become AWARE and change your THINKING, you need to tap into the unconscious behaviour that drives your automatic thoughts.
This is where mindfulness meditation comes in…..
Now when it comes to mindfulness meditation, its not a miracle cure. The world doesn’t change, but your reactions to it do. It allows to to see clear what is real and what is not.
Now we have established that our thoughts and feeling are different right?
Well wouldn’t it make sense then that if we intercept our thoughts to change our PERSPECTIVE to a more positive one, our feelings should also change in a more positive manner.
When using meditation and mindfulness, there are 3 crucial elements to activate a relaxation response:
#1 QUICKLY – It’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘i don’t have time’. Even 7-10 minutes is enough time to disconnect from the stress that builds up in our body’s and minds without taking away from your day.
#2 DEEP RELAXATION MUSIC – It works!. It helps to slow your heart rate and guides your mind through relaxation process
#3 BINAURAL TONES – When two sounds of different frequencies are embedded together, the left ear and right ear hear different sounds, which causes your brain to hear a 3rd sound.
According to the Journal of Psychological Research, low-frequency binaural tones are associated with mental relaxation, and high-frequency tones improve alertness and concentration. With the correct sequencing, Binaural Tones are a safe, natural, and powerful way to quickly activate the relaxation response.
If you’re looking for some short meditation sessions to massage your tense mind, release stress, and plant seeds of calm relaxation that allow you to flourish in life, then i highly recommend the 7 minutes of mindfulness program. It will walk you through every step of the way!