Posts Tagged Happiness

How to Manage Emotions More Effectively


How to Manage Emotions More Effectively

by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

How to Manage Emotions More EffectivelyFor many people, emotions are a scary thing. Part of the problem is that we just don’t know what to do with them, according to Darlene Mininni, Ph.D, MPH, author of The Emotional Toolkit.

So we turn to the only strategies we do know. If you’re a man, you might distract yourself by playing video games, tinkering with your tools or drinking alcohol, she said. If you’re a woman, you might shop or eat.

Turning to these tools occasionally is OK, Mininni said. Making them part of your regular coping repertoire, however, is problematic.

Emotions are valuable, and offer a bounty of benefits. Once we’re able to process and cope with them effectively, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our needs, Mininni said. Emotions send us important messages and help us connect with others and accomplish great things, she said.

 

Using unhealthy strategies can sabotage our relationships, job and even our health, Mininni said. In fact, people who handle stress effectively have healthier immune systems, don’t get sick as often and age up to 16 years more slowly than people who don’t.1

What is an Emotion?

There’s actually no consensus on what an emotion is, Mininni said. She defines emotions as a “full-body experience,” an interplay between our thoughts and physical sensations.

As an illustration, Mininni created the following simple formula:

Thoughts + Body Sensations = Emotion

For instance, a kind of giddy happiness and anxiety have the same sensations, such as tight muscles and a pounding heart. What determines whether we feel happy or anxious are our thoughts.

Decoding Emotions

Mininni created a valuable step-by-step process to help people identify and manage their emotions. The first step is to figure out what you’re feeling – and you just need to choose from four main emotions.

Mininni said that all emotions fall into these categories: anxiety, sadness, anger and happiness. With anxiety, she said, your mind lights up with “What ifs?” What if I lose my job? What if I don’t meet someone? What if I fail my test?

You have thoughts of the future and everything that can go wrong, she said. Your physical sensations include a racing heart, tight muscles and clenched jaw.

With sadness, you have negative thoughts about the past. You feel tired and heavy; you might cry and have trouble concentrating, she said.

With anger, your thoughts are focused on how you or your values have been attacked, she said. The physical sensations are similar to anxiety, including a racing heart and tightness in the body.

With happiness, your thoughts are focused on what you’ve gained. Maybe you landed a great job, found a nice apartment or received a compliment. Physically, you feel light or calm, and you might laugh and smile, she said.

The next step is to identify the message of your emotion. To do so, ask yourself these questions, according to Mininni:

  • Anxiety: What am I afraid of?
  • Sadness: What have I lost?
  • Anger: How have I or my values been attacked?
  • Happiness: What have I gained?

Coping with Emotions

Once you’ve identified the emotion and its message, the last step is to take action. Ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to solve the situation, Mininni said. If there is, consider what you can do.

For instance, if you’re upset that you can’t find a good job, maybe you can have friends review your resume or hire a professional resume writer. Maybe you can sharpen your interview skills or extend your search a few zip codes.

If there’s nothing you can do, determine how you can cope with the emotion, she said. Mininni suggested meditating, getting social supportwriting, exercising and seeking therapy.

Think of these strategies as an emotional toolkit. You simply reach into your kit, and pick out the healthy tool you need, Mininni said. In fact, you can create an actual tote, and pack it with comforting items such as sneakers, your journal, funny films, favorite books and a list of people you’d like to call when you’re upset.

The strategies that work best will vary with each person, depending on your personality, physiology and other individual factors, Mininni said. For some people, running works wonders in alleviating anxiety. For others, meditation is better.

Emotions may seem confusing and threatening but applying the above practical and clear-cut approach reveals emotions for what they really are: useful, informative and far from murky.

 

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Do You Fall into This Happiness Trap?


Do You Fall into This Happiness Trap?

By GRETCHEN RUBIN

It’s very easy to fall into the happiness trap of false choices — of thinking you can either do X or Y, and those are the only two choices you have.

False choices are tempting for a couple of reasons. First, instead of facing a bewildering array of options, you limit yourself to a few simple possibilities. Also, the way you set up the options often makes it obvious that one choice is the high-minded and reasonable choice, and one is not.

But although false choices can be comforting, they can leave you feeling trapped, and they can blind you to other choices you might make.

“I’d rather have a few true friends instead of tons of shallow friends.”

You don’t have to choose between a “real” few and “superficial” many. I have intimate friends and casual friends. I have work friends whom I never see outside a professional context. I have childhood friends whom I see only once every ten years. I have several friends whose spouses I’ve never met. I have online friends whom I’ve never met face-to-face. These friendships aren’t all of equal importance to me, but they all add warmth and color to my life.

“I think it’s more important to worry about other people’s happiness, instead of thinking only about myself and my own happiness.”

Why do you have to choose? You can think about your happiness and other people’s happiness. In fact, as summed up in the Second Splendid Truth, thinking about your own happiness will help you make others happy. And vice versa!

“Either I can be financially secure, or I can have a job I enjoy.”

“If I don’t want to live in a chaotic, clutter-filled house, I need to get rid of all my stuff.”

“I’d rather have an interesting life than a happy life.”

“It’s more important to be authentic and honest than it is to be positive and enthusiastic.”

Can you find a way to be authentically enthusiastic or honestly positive? In my experience, it’s often possible, though it can take a little extra work.

“I can care about people, or I can care about possessions.”

From Eleanor Roosevelt: “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”

Happiness is a goal and a by-product. Nietzche explained this well: “The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”

One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “The opposite of a great truth is also true.” Sometimes, the falsity of a false choice comes from the fact that both choices are true. I have more time than I think and less time than I think. I can accept myself and expect more from myself. I want an empty shelf, and I want a junk drawer.

In further illustration of that point, false choices themselves can sometimes be unhelpful but at other times, helpful.

A false choice can be an indirect way for you to figure out what you really want; the way you’ve framed the question reveals the path you want to take. For instance, a reader emailed me and, after a long explanation of his situation, wrote, “So the question is: do I decide to risk everything to pursue a life of meaning and happiness, or do I stay stuck in my boring job?” That may have been a false choice, but in any event, it was pretty clear he’d made his decision!

via Do You Fall into This Happiness Trap? | World of Psychology.

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Sad Movies Make Many People Happy


Sad Movies Make Many People Happy | Psych Central News

Sad Movies Make Many People Happy
By RICK NAUERT PHD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 28, 2012
New research helps explains why many people enjoy watching tragic movies or plays. Apparently, the emotional connection evoked by such stories helped viewers better appreciate their own close relationships, which in turn boosted their life happiness.

Thus, the paradox is that what seems like a negative experience — watching a sad story — can make people happier by bringing attention to some positive aspects in their own lives.

Tragic stories often focus on themes of eternal love, and this leads viewers to think about their loved ones and count their blessings,” said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

Researchers found movies that cause a viewer to think about their own situation and relationships are powerful.

Investigators found that the more an individual thought about their loved ones during the movie — in this case, the 2007 film “Atonement,” based on the award-winning novel by Ian McEwan — the greater the increase in their happiness.

However, viewers who had self-centered thoughts concerning the movie — such as “My life isn’t as bad as the characters in this movie” — did not see an increase in their happiness.

Knobloch-Westerwick said this study is one of the first to take a scientific approach to explaining why people enjoy fictional tragedies that make them sad.

“Philosophers have considered this question over the millennia, but there hasn’t been much scientific attention to the question,” she said.

Researchers studied 361 college students who viewed an abridged version of  “Atonement,” which involves two lovers who are separated and die as war casualties. Before and after viewing the movie, the respondents were asked several questions which measured how happy they were with their life.

They were also asked before, after and three times during the movie to rate how much they were feeling various emotions, including sadness.

After the movie, participants rated how much they enjoyed the movie and wrote about how the movie had led them to reflect on themselves, their goals, their relationships and life in general.

What people wrote about as a result of seeing the movie was a key in understanding why people enjoy viewing fictional tragedies, Knobloch-Westerwick said. People who experienced a greater increase in sadness while watching the movie were more likely to write about real people with whom they had close relationships, she said.

This in turn, increased participants’ life happiness after viewing, which was then related to more enjoyment of the movie.

“People seem to use tragedies as a way to reflect on the important relationships in their own life, to count their blessings,” she said. “That can help explain why tragedies are so popular with audiences, despite the sadness they induce.”

Surprisingly, the perception that movies may make people feel more happiness because they compare themselves to the characters portrayed and feel good that their own lives are not as bad — was not the case.

People whose thoughts after the movie were about themselves — rather than about their close relationships — did not experience an increase in life happiness.

“Tragedies don’t boost life happiness by making viewers think more about themselves. They appeal to people because they help them to appreciate their own relationships more,” she said.

But why would people have to get sad by watching a tragedy to feel grateful about relationships in their own lives? Knobloch-Westerwick said this fits with research in psychology that suggests negative moods make people more thoughtful.

Positive emotions are generally a signal that everything is fine, you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to think about issues in your life,” she said.

“But negative emotions, like sadness, make you think more critically about your situation. So seeing a tragic movie about star-crossed lovers may make you sad, but that will cause you to think more about your own close relationships and appreciate them more.”

Research has also shown that relationships are generally the major source of happiness in our lives, so it is no surprise that thinking about your loved ones would make you happier, she said.

“Tragedies bring to mind close relationships, which makes us happy.”

Source: Ohio State University

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