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6 Root Cause Series – Part 4: Emotions

Article Overview
Problem: Destructive Emotional Habits
Solution: Develop Productive Emotional Habits
Lifestyle Prescription®: 7-day’s towards Emotional Mastery

Summary: The fourth of Lifestyle Prescription University’s 6 Root causes that we will explore in this series is Emotions.

Our emotional habits can have a positive or negative impact on our well-being. Suppressing emotions or becoming consumed by them often leads to destructive behaviors. Productive emotional habits allow us to utilize emotions for our benefit. We can improve our emotional state by cultivating practices that allow our emotions to be positive guiding forces instead of our worst nightmares.

Problem: Destructive Emotional Habits

“The goal is balance, not emotional suppression: each feeling has its value and significance.” – Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman [i]

It is not an emotion in and of itself that is the problem but how we handle it. Our internal emotions are separate from our external reactions to those feelings. Becoming overly consumed with our emotions is a destructive emotional habit that can lead us to harm ourselves or others. For example, when absorbed in anger we may become unconsciously driven to hurt another person. Being immersed in sadness or fear can make us withdraw from life and miss out on life-giving opportunities. Losing ourselves to envy can create resentment motivating us to steal from another person. Even love and joy in excess can turn into an unhealthy obsession. The emotional habit of becoming absorbed in our emotions creates unnecessary troubles and distress in our lives.

Another destructive emotional habit is suppressing emotions. Drugs, alcohol, and/or food are used to numb uncomfortable feelings at the expense of our health. Some emotions are distressing, but they may have a positive purpose. Anger can allow us to stand up and protect ourselves from harm. Fear prevents us from moving towards danger that can end in injury or death. Sadness moves us to withdraw to recreate a future without what we have lost or develop a plan to get it back. Envy shows us what we want for ourselves and can motivate us to attain those things in the future. The belief that certain emotions need to be avoided moves us to suppress them, ignoring their positive purpose and missing out on the benefits that they have to offer.

Solution: Develop Productive Emotional Habits

“Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.” – Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics

Emotions are an unavoidable part of the human experience and so it is wise to learn how to handle them before they naturally occur. We can accomplish this by developing productive emotional habits through practice. Below are some practices that with time will develop healthy habits that give us power over our emotions instead of allowing them to have power over us.

Practice #1:  Internal Emotional Awareness

The first step towards emotional mastery is to become aware of our emotions as they arise. Just acknowledging that we ‘feel bad or good’ is not enough information to utilize our emotions for our benefit. We tune into our emotional experience by naming the emotion and how it makes us feel inside. Then we can dig deeper to identify what sparked the emotion and whether there is a beneficial reason behind this internal reaction. This is a helpful practice for both uplifting emotions as well as distressing emotions. For instance, being aware of what brings us joy can guide us to increase whatever triggers that feeling. Once we become clear about our internal experience we can confidently determine the best external emotional response.

Practice #2: External Emotional Response Strategy

Emotions easily hijack our reactions when we have no strategy. Our first smart response to an intense internal feeling can be to reduce the emotional charge before taking any further action. Walking, running, and taking some time away from the situation are examples of positive ways to calm down. This practice will make us more levelheaded when determining how to best respond to the internal emotion. We want to look at ALL of the inner and outer options we have along with their potential consequences. The ideal solution will allow us to completely release the emotional charge without causing harm.  This strategy is modeled after the Stoplight Method.[ii] With a clear action plan, we can have more productive emotional responses instead of messy emotional reactions.

Practice #3: Using Lifestyle Habits to Improve Emotions

Lifestyle habits can be used to shift our internal emotional state. Certain behaviors can trigger emotions or amplify their intensity. We want to decrease doing things that leave us feeling awful such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, not eating, and sleep deprivation. The word hangry captures this connection perfectly with the definition being “irritable or angry because of hunger.”[iii] Another great example is how a toddler’s emotional outbursts can cue a mother that it is time to put her little one down for a nap. Likewise, we can uplift our mood by increasing habits that leave us feeling blissful such as exercising, getting good rest, eating regular balanced meals and listening to music that uplifts us. During your emotional awareness practice, look for how your lifestyle habits are affecting your emotions and use that knowledge to improve your emotional experience.

Lifestyle Prescription®: 7-day’s towards Emotional Mastery

This week’s Lifestyle Prescription® is to start creating productive emotional habits with a simple practice for the next 7 days. The first option is to set aside 10 minutes each day to practice internal emotional awareness and/or the external emotional response strategy using the questions below. The other option is to try out removing one lifestyle habit that makes you feel awful or add one lifestyle habit that makes you feel blissful. These practices are a small step towards becoming a MASTER over your emotions.

Lifestyle Prescription® Health Coaching:

Get extra support with upgrading your emotional habits by starting a coaching plan with a Lifestyle Prescriptions® Health Coach. They can guide you through protocols and teach you techniques that can help you with your emotional well-being. Together you will be able to create specialized Lifestyle Prescriptions® specific to your needs.

Click here to get connected to a health coach today

 

Author: Ashley Layle is currently studying with Lifestyle Prescriptions® University to get her Master’s in Lifestyle Medicine and is a certified Lifestyle Prescriptions® Health Coach. In 2014, she became certified in Massage and Hydrotherapy then was a Licensed Massage Therapist in Colorado for 2 years. In 2020, she received her certificate of expertise in Culinary Nutrition. She enjoys reading books, exploring nature, cooking, and spending time with her family in her free time.

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[i] Goleman, Daniel. “Chapter 5.” Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, Bloomsbury, London, UK, 1996, p. Page 50.

[ii] Goleman, Daniel. “Chapter 16: Schooling the Emotions – TIMING IS ALL.” Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, Bloomsbury, London, UK, 1996, p. 244.

[iii] “Hangry.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hangry. Accessed 12 Jan. 2024.

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