What is your emotional baseline? What emotional states do you tend to live from?
Do you tend to be mostly ‘up’, positive and generally optimistic? Do you easily feel happy, joyful, peaceful and loving? Grateful? Inspired? Or do you tend to be ‘down’, negative and generally pessimistic? Are you easily angered, offended or frustrated? Do you have a pattern of anxiety? Do you frequently feel guilty? Fearful? Sad?
What feelings do you usually experience when you wake in the morning? Are you a person who looks forward to the day and sings in the shower! Or do you feel disgruntled and stressed? Do you habitually get caught up in worry or anger about some person or situation?
If something happens that you dislike in the morning, do you stay in a ‘bad mood’ all day? Or do you ‘get over it’ quickly?
Your emotional baseline is the state you return to after experiencing emotional arousal. This is analogous to a heart rate that returns to baseline after exercise.
Emotional arousal can be thought of as wave like. When unencumbered, it arises, peaks and then falls away. However many people prolong the arousal. They habitually get caught up in re-playing the experience. These thoughts re-evoke the same feelings. Over and over. This is great if you are replaying positive experiences and feeling good feelings!
The harm to your well being comes from habitually replaying negative experiences. The more you think about something that ‘makes’ you angry, the more angry you feel. The more you re-live a hurtful experience, the more hurt you feel. You have no doubt encountered people who are still angry or hurt or guilty or depressed about something that happened months ago. Or even years ago. The event has long passed. It is only the thoughts that keep it alive. It is the thoughts that give that experience power to effect our emotional state in the present.
Many centenarians share a philosophy of deliberately choosing to be happy despite the ups and downs of life. They have learned to go with the flow. They do not get caught up in resistance to ‘what is’ or ‘what is not’ going on in their life. They advise ‘if you are given lemons make lemonade.’
The capacity to be adaptable is a key attribute for happiness, health and longevity.
Adaptability helps to maintain a positive emotional baseline.
A positive emotional baseline promotes happiness, health and longevity.
In a practical sense, adaptability means to accept what you cannot change. Be pro-active in changing what you can change. And gain the wisdom to know the difference. Does this sound familiar?
You have the power to deliberately shape whether your emotional baseline is essentially negative or positive.
The Power Of Self Talk
We can develop a habit of tormenting ourselves with our thoughts and our self talk. Our minds are great at lavishly embellishing an experience for better or worse.
We develop habits of catastrophysing. We take a simple criticism from one person and conclude ‘everybody hates me’. We make a small mistake and conclude ‘I’m a total failure’. The only place this kind of self talk can take you is into misery and fear.
Do you habitually trust that every problem has a solution? Do you look for the silver lining when dark clouds loom? Or do you worry and upset yourself with everything that is wrong or could go wrong?
Negative self talk holds your emotional baseline down the negative end of the continuum. It inevitably sets you up for even more of what you don’t want.
You have the power to consciously change you thoughts and how you talk to yourself.
Counselling and therapy offer very effective ways to manage the mind. You can discover how to adjust beliefs and thoughts. To learn more effective ways of processing information and experience. To literally change how you talk to yourself.
Nurturing Your Emotional Baseline Towards The Positive
The more you practice positive thoughts and emotions, the easier it is to maintain a more positive emotional baseline. Despite the challenges of daily life.
When you live from a positive emotional baseline, people and events have much less power to ‘disempower’ you or bring you down.
Effective counselling and therapy can assist you with many techniques and strategies to develop emotional intelligence. You can become free from upsetting past experiences. Troublesome emotions can be released. You can learn effective ways to respond to and quickly resolve feelings that arise in the present.
Practice accepting ‘what is’. There is great liberation and power in developing the practice of acceptance. Many people ‘resist what is’. They focus on how unfair something is. They get angry if people or situations are not how they think they should be or must be.
Rather than putting all of your energy and focus into resisting ‘what is’, put your focus on ‘what now?’ You can always choose how you will respond to a person or event.
Even if you cannot change the event, you have the power to determine how that event impacts you.
People with a positive emotional baseline take action to address what can be done. They consider how a situation could be improved or resolved.
They talk to themselves in ways that support coping, self acceptance and mastery. If a mistake is made they accept responsibility. They tend to turn the mistake into an opportunity for learning. ‘I made a mistake. What can I learn from this? What could be done differently next time that would feel better? What could support a better result?’
A positive emotional baseline features feelings like love, joy, appreciation, gratitude, compassion and caring(amongst others). These can all be nurtured and strengthened. There are many specific strategies and techniques you can use to do this.
Writing a gratitude journal every day has been found to increase happiness by 25% within 10 weeks. Even if nothing else has changed. A gratitude journal is quite simply writing down everything you can think of for which you are grateful. “I am really grateful for……” Rather than keeping it as an intellectual exercise, the key is to truly feel the gratitude. It is an amazing way to start the day. Try it and discover what happens!
Appreciation is a great mood lifter. Focus on and truly savour various sensory experiences in the moment. You could stop and do this at regular times throughout the day. Close your eyes and fully appreciate the sensations of water massaging your skin in the shower. Drink in your favourite aromas like freshly brewed coffee or your favourite perfume. Take a few extra minutes to give your loved ones your undivided attention. Express your love and appreciation with words or hugs. Allow yourself to fully appreciate a compliment. Savour the beauty of colours and visual images. Immerse yourself in uplifting music.
Compassion and acts of kindness are extraordinarily powerful in promoting positive emotional states. Learning to have compassion for yourself and for other people is a process and practice that can be learned. Remember how great you felt when you gave or received an act of kindness or care? The good feelings stay with you all day.
Plan time for pleasure. Regularly! Ideally, build in opportunities for some kind of pleasurable experience every day. Pleasurable experiences are vitally important in managing stress levels. What gives pleasure is entirely subjective. You may enjoy a regular activity or you may prefer a variety of experiences.
Begin now and enjoy what these simple practices will bring! Making tiny changes often throughout the day, has exciting transformational power.
You may also like to read Manage Your Feelings