Dilemma: Joy Vs Negative Emotions
Dilemma: Joy Vs Negative Emotions
Easy to stay happy, and not be consumed by others’ negative thoughts and emotions?
Do you ever get afraid or hesitant to openly acknowledge your joy? Think about moments when you were around others, and you wanted to express the joy and blessings in your life but you decided to hold in. Think about those moments with your friends, family, and co-workers when you wanted to talk about the positive things and excitements going on in your life but you just could not let it out due to what’s happening in the lives of others around you. Why? (1). We don’t want people to think that we are bragging or that we do no validate their emotional states. (2). We don’t want to be seen as the “Happy-Go-Lucky People” especially when others are busy talking about life challenges, or talking about negative things happening in society, or focusing on expressing the problems in their lives.
What about not having any negative thoughts in mind, but just stay happy? No! It’s hard to remain positive, and joyful when we have constant fighting going on in our brains about our emotions, and reactions. In the brain of every individual, their lives a problem scanning part called the Amygdala, and it constantly searches our world for worries. Every time the amygdala finds or assumes a problem, it radiates adrenaline and stress hormones in our bodies, and this can send us into a fight-or-flight zone. It’s inevitable to have negative thoughts. With the amygdala being one of the oldest parts of our brains, it perceives our emotions and keeps memories of those emotions and other events so that we can recognize them in the future. This is why when we go through bitter experience, we can always remember it or relive it when we hear people talking about something similar or see a situation similar to what we may have experienced a long time ago.
Contrary to the amygdala, we also have a prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for producing rational thoughts, and making a good judgment, planning, solving complex problems, and it boosts our personality development. This part of the brain provides soothing moments as we think before we react to our evolving emotions. At most times, as our amygdala splashes emotions of anger, sadness, and fear, our prefrontal cortex gently fights to calm us down so that we can make a rational choice, and take proactive steps.
The fight between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex simply translates the fight between our emotions and attitude. This fight validates that we do not have control over our emotions because we are humans… But it shows us that we can control our attitude, and our reactions to our emotions. The largest portion of our happiness comes from our reaction and attitude. In “The How of Happiness”, new research by University of California psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky shows that only 10% of our happiness is based on our life circumstances, and 90% is based on how we react to what happens to us, and how we see the world around us. Understanding the reasons behind our anger and frustrations does help us to understand the nature of their impact on us.
Both the amygdala and prefrontal cortex are important parts of our brains, and research shows they both have an influence on each other. The effects of the fight or flight response on our brains will become stronger and last longer when we don’t know the cause of our anger and worries. On the other hand, if you are able to understand the reason for your anger and frustration, the prefrontal cortex will communicate with your emotional amygdala to cool you down. We will encounter negative thoughts and emotions, and negative things will happen around us. With our society, negative happenings seem to spread and stay in our brains faster than positive news. When everyone is complaining about life, and how it sucks, if you come in and start talking about the beauty of life due to joy you are experiencing, you will be perceived as bragging or inconsiderate.
Even though the state of happiness is contagious, it’s hard to take in courage when you think life is in shambles, and things are not going well. When we feel darkness, we need someone to show us that there is a way and that things will get better. Your presence, joyful and hopeful state can serve as an inspiration to others. Buddha says, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of that candle will not be shortened. Happiness is never reduced by being shared.” So, think about that whenever you are in a situation that you feel like holding back your joy due to fear. Think about the impact you can make, and the light you can shine on others to come out of the grip of negativity.
So, with negative emotions all around us, what small steps do we take so that we don’t lose our joy, and how do we help others heal through theirs as well?
Validating emotions: validate the war going on in the mind of every individual, and realize that others may still be struggling to overcome the flood of emotions within. This is about taking calculated and integrated steps to acknowledge and accept others’ emotions. It’s about you genuinely acknowledging the situation of the people around you without you getting mastered by the negative situations that everyone may be experiencing. This is more about normalizing the negative experiences and emotions of others and less of being inconsiderate of their feelings. Do not stuff your anger and frustration and pretend they don’t exist. When we find ourselves surrounded by others in emotional and negative situations, the lesser we devalue, deny, or disregard our emotions and those of others the better we can help ourselves and others to become more fulfilling, hopeful, and quicker restoration of our joy.
Identifying the triggers of your emotions: Gain awareness of your emotions, and their cues. know what events or circumstances that can trigger negative emotions within you. Is it stress, too much workload? Recognize the power within you, and strengthen your strengths. Try to fully live and enjoy the now moments, and reduce regrets and worries about the past and the future.
Cognitive restructuring: This is about a change in your mindset or patterns of thinking. How do you interpret situations? It’s about limiting cognitive distortions which will positively impact our thoughts and behaviors. Sometimes changing how you look at things will help change the situations you look at. Remember that 90% of our happiness is based on how we perceive and interpret life circumstances and the world around us.