Monday, May 17, 2021

A simple trick that may help you to feel happier

In a recent YouTube interview with Tom Bilyeu Seth Godin quoted Catherine Hope, a friend of his,who said: “you can’t be angry and curious at the same time.” It’s a wonderful video which within a few minutes suggests a few questions about how we are inclined to view education and work. I invite you to grab a cuppa and have a watch, it really is fascinating.

The most fascinating aspect about this interview for me is this quote and what it may mean for many of us who want to shape or reshape our lives in meaningful and regenerative ways.

In the coaching world there is a saying: 'you cannot do two opposing emotions at the same time’. An example and a test of this idea is suggested; look up at the blue sky and smile, and while your smiling up at the blue sky, try to feel sad. It's a simple strategy and generally the outcome is the same; the smile continues and there is no feeling of sadness. Its a trick in some ways because the brain and body are designed to feel certain things when they are in specific positions.

Another test is to lift your arms out to the sides with your hands up at eye level. Have the fingers just on the very periphery of your vision. Now wriggle your fingers and try to feel anxious. Notice what happens instead. It is generally very difficult to feel anxious, and this is explained by the fact that anxiety happens in one hemisphere of the brain and yet twiddling the fingers engages both sides.

There are many more ways that we can test this idea and mostly all of them work. We certainly know that when we are feeling down and someone says, “come on… see the good side!” all we want to do is throttle them… they just don't understand.

The important take home here is that we struggle to run two opposing emotions at the same time and with that, we also struggle to run two opposing mental states at the same time too. Trying to feel angry for example when in the opposing mental state of joyful is a struggle.

Why is this important? 

Neuroscientist Carla Shatz once said: "Neurons that fire together wire together.” simply meaning of course that when we do something enough we end up becoming an expert at it, whether we want to be an expert at it or not. So, if we practice the strategy of looking up and smiling while trying to feel sad, what we are cleverly doing is rewiring the brain and the emotion of sadness. 

Interestingly, when we look up we are engaging in a physiological process that cannot hold sadness, the physical posture neurologically doesn't do sadness very well, or something like that. The best way to test if it works it is to test it for yourself. 

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