Everyday we ride an emotional roller coaster. We can leave work feeling great because we completed a major project or made a huge sale. The feeling of joy plunges when we become angry because another driver cut us off. Then we reach home and feel so loved when our 2-footed or 4-footed loved ones greet us.
The Highs and Lows
While riding the emotional roller coaster called life, we often recognize the highs and the lows, but may not think a lot about the physical reaction to these emotions. Like a roller coaster, the physical effects of these emotions can be transient. Our blood pressure increases when we are angry with other drivers. However, it soon returns to normal. In this case, the incident on the roadway results in little or no residual effect on our overall well-being.
In some cases, it lasts a bit longer. Stress headaches or muscle strains gained on the ride or that occur as a result of our emotions being jostled about last longer. Perhaps, we feel them for a few hours or a whole day.
Sometimes, however, situations can have a lingering effect on us. For example, when we experience strong emotional trauma, such as the loss of a loved one, the emotion can be quite intense and linger with us for a long period of time. Initially, this trauma may or may not have any physical effects on us. Any initial physical effects are likely to be transient – headache, sleeplessness, etc. However, it is the accumulation of the emotion over time that holds the potential to have a greater impact on our health and wellbeing.
Underlying negative emotions that linger attack us day in and day out. Often this happens for a long period of time only to be followed by the discovery of a physical aliment. Many times people view this as an independent event and do not connect it to the emotion that they have been harboring. Others have a sudden “Ah ha!” moment and begin to wonder if there is a tie between the their emotion and the manifestation of the physical aliment.
Not all physical ailments that manifest from emotion come from traumatic events. People sometimes experience an emotion on a regular basis or hold on to an emotion. If this is a positive emotion, such as love, this is wonderful and very healthy. Unfortunately, it is often anger or another negative emotion. For example, politics, fueled by social media and media outlets, seems to put some people in a constant state of anger. That anger is unhealthy and needs to be released for the person’s own well-being.
Changing Our Reactions
We can start to change our reactions to negative emotions by being conscious of the connection between our emotions on our physical well-being. Recognition that we no longer need to be at the mercy of these emotions is the first step.
The second step is to choose to release our connection to negative emotions. We can begin that process by recognizing that the situation causing these emotions will pass. After all, do we really want to be emotionally invested in something that may physically harm us, This is especially true since the harm often comes after the issue has become less important or is no longer relevant. t
Once we make this choice, we can begin to release the emotion. However, releasing the connection to negative emotions is not easy. These negative emotions are the most intense emotions and they linger with us the longest. We also tend to rehash the negative emotions, which reinforces the recall of the situation and has a tendency to intensify the emotions.
It is important to see situations that lead to negative emotions for what they are. In some cases, they are traumatic and life changing. However, often we hold onto emotions related to events that aren’t life changing and aren’t really traumatic. We must consciously remind ourselves that it is acceptable and healthy to let go of these negative emotions.
Positive Memories Are Healthy
Human nature seems to be attuned to looking at the bad. It is a way of survival and seeking answers. Yet, looking for the good in situations or positive memories to replace the bad is very healthy. It isn’t always easy at first; however, it gets easier with practice. In the case of the loss of a loved one, it is far healthier to remember the good times – the laughter, the love – rather than focusing on the loss. By doing so we reinforce the positive emotions and we heal for our future well-being.