Healthy Food for Thought: Training our Emotional Muscle

On June 30, 2021

Our brain and our mind is neither static nor is it often in a state of perfect balance, at least not for many of us. During the course of a day, all humans naturally go through a range of different moods (neural mechanisms of emotion). So we might start the day feeling great, and maybe throughout the day feel lower or without much energy and then better again. Often, we hardly notice these changes as they can be very slight. Rather, we will most likely become aware that we are not feeling as happy anymore or something is bothering us for example, but we won't consciously know when this feeling changed.

Mood changes and consequently the way we feel or experience emotions can be accentuated by many factors such as hormones, the food we eat, what we drink, how little or much we sleep and some types of medication. This 'biological part' of our emotional life is not the whole story however. Research has increasingly demonstrated a link between our personality (including our preferences, attitudes etc) and our emotions and moods. Becoming self-aware and understanding our positive or negative triggers better is the key to building our own coping mechanisms to prevent us falling 'prey' to our lower moods.

Here a helpful, quick, step-by-step approach to become more conscious of our internal states and address these proactively:

  1. Become aware of what triggers your negative feelings.
  2. Identify what thought and emotion led you there. An example might be realising that: 'when I am by myself with no one else around for too long I start over-analysing ... or 'when I am not doing any physical activity and am lying on the couch, spending too much time on social media news, I start to feel insignificant, become increasingly insecure and start losing my self confidence...
  3. Trying to replace negative thoughts with more positive ones can provide a new perspective and improve a low mood e.g: "I see all these people being successful, but that does not mean that I do not have talents and personal gifts too.
  4. Finally reflecting about our strengths, talents and gifts and writing down three things that we feel proud of (e.g. I am a good listener or I have some very good friends who stand by me or I am proud of my kids or of my beautiful hair etc) is an important part of this mood uplifting process. It can be anything, small or big that you feel grateful for; articulating this clearly is important in this conscious emotional shift process.

To sum up: you might not always be able to prevent yourself going to a dark or less happy place, but you can learn to become more conscious as to when this about to happen. Do this by identifying the cause or trigger and develop, practice and train yourself to adopt an alternative strategy to help you gain your personal power back over that unhelpful 'mood'. :-)