Here are 11 proven ways to transform negative emotions. We have to cultivate a habit of keeping our emotions in check to maintain a sound mental health and effectively using coping strategies to combat stress.
Before we begin I would like to do a quick 2 min Neuroscience tour that you need to know what happens inside our bodies when we have got stressed.
Let us understand little about the Autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is a subdivision of the peripheral nervous system that controls and regulates body processes that are automatic like the involuntary body functions, such as heartbeat, blood flow, breathing, and digestion. It monitors and controls all these systems involved to harmoniously work together in coherence 24/7 continuously. It has two main functions: the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for fight or flight response while the Parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for rest & recovery.
At any point of time both systems Sympathetic and Parasympathetic are operational and in balance. One of them is more active. This is what keeps the body in homeostasis or balance.
What happens inside our bodies when we get stressed?
When we feel negative emotions (for instance, anger, hate, jealousy, and rage), our heart sends a signal to our brain. The amygdala sends a distress signal, the hypothalamus activates the sympathetic nervous system(SNS) by sending signals through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands. These glands respond by pumping the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) into the bloodstream.
Increase in Heart rate, blood pressure, pupil dilation, tightening of muscles, fast breathing and dry mouth. This process is the fight-or-flight response that helps us survive when we are in distress.
When we experience emotions of appreciation, love, compassion, care and gratitude we shift into the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS). Lowers heart rate, blood pressure, stimulates saliva, digestion, pupil constriction, bronchial constriction, relaxes muscles, inhibits adrenaline production, boosts immunity, overall relaxed body and calm mind. This prompts the body to rest, rejuvenate and regenerate efficiently, allowing the system to detoxify and return to homeostasis.
The only reason I wanted you to be aware of all this is because we should be more emotionally responsible. We can’t let ourselves drown in heavy emotion causing damage not only to ourselves but our loved ones are most affected. I urge you all to be more mindful how to navigate through negative emotions.
These 11 proven ways to transform negative emotions shifts the body to parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS)
- Heart Coherence
Did you know the heart is the most powerful source of electromagnetic energy in the human body. The heart’s electrical field measured by ECG electrocardiogram is about 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity generated by the brain. The magnetic field produced by the heart is more than 100 times greater in strength than the field generated by the brain and can be detected up to 3 feet away from the body, in all directions Source: HeartMath.org https://www.heartmath.org/research/science-of-the-heart/energetic-communication/
“Heart Coherence is described by researchers as a highly efficient psycho-physiological state in which your nervous system, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems are working together efficiently and harmoniously.” Source: HeartMath.org
How can I get into such a coherent state?
The Heart Math Institute has done research to show that when we create rejuvenating emotions, such as appreciation, care, love, gratitude, and compassion, the signal from heart to brain becomes more harmonized. Brain switches from Sympathetic to Parasympathetic nervous system. The stress hormones decrease, allowing the heart and brain to shift and produce the chemistry that supports stronger immune response, creating a greater heart-brain connection and coherence.
What is being suggested here is if you want to make a shift from a stressful situation to being stress free, you can do it via the heart by regenerating feelings of love or compassion and resetting the physiological changes to balance.
Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being
HRV is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It identifies imbalances in the ANS. If a person is more in fight and flight mode then the HRV is lower. If a person is more relaxed and restful then HRV is higher. Higher HRV indicates higher resilience to stress and behaviour flexibility.
This is not a unknown fact, many ancient traditions across the world already knew that Heart is the seat of the soul. Heart is the seat of our consciousness. Heart is where we can get all the wisdom and guidance.
Many Yogic, Tibetan, Christian, Sufi, Egyptian and other traditions practice meditation on heart to bring clarity and peace to the mind.
- Deep Breathing
Deep breathing techniques like pranayama resets the autonomic nervous system and activates the parasympathetic nervous system(PSNS). It can help improve circulation and promote oxygenation of the blood. Lowers heart rate and blood pressure and calms the mind.
Alternate nostril breathing is a tool to balance the hemispheres of the brain, strengthening the lungs, and relieving allergies and sinus issues. Just 10 min a day can bring profound benefits. Watch a video on Breathing
Studies have proven that individuals who practice meditation daily have increased calmness, better stress response, coping with illness and overall health & wellbeing. It brings better peace of mind and helps restore balance in the autonomic nervous system. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth
As a trainer with Heartfulness, which is also a heart based meditation , I can vouch for this system. Whenever I am overwhelmed or going through stressful times, I take a session with transmission and immediately you can experience a shift to a calmer mind, ability to think clearly and have more emotional resilience to overcome the situation.
- Yoga or exercise
Yoga exercises also have proven to be effective in alleviating stress, anxiety or any kind of negative emotion. Increases oxygen in the blood, improves circulation, tones muscles and aids in digestion, improves sleep quality.
5.Release and Let go
It is very important to release and let go, instead of just avoiding it. You will feel much relieved after you vent your emotions. You can journal it down or speak to a trusted friend but don’t ignore this step.
6. Connect with Nature
Connect with nature whenever you have a negative experience, go take a walk outside a park or garden. You will return back fresh and happier. Mother Nature heals and grounds you back with positivity. Every fresh breath you take heals you, releases stress hormones and speeds up your recovery. The study reveals that just a twenty-minute nature experience was enough to significantly reduce cortisol levels. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404074915.htm
Regular massage also restores the balance between SNS and PSNS. Massage promotes relaxation and improves circulation activating the PSNS mode. Stimulates the lymphatic system and reduces stress hormones and aids the recovery process.
8. Healthy Diet
It is important that you eat healthy nutritious food that can help in alleviating stress. If you are not eating well, it can add to mental fatigue and stress. You need to ensure you are properly hydrated and eating all nutrient rich food to cope with stress. Research has shown significant impact on stress reduction when you make healthy food choices. Include Vitamin C, complex carbohydrates, magnesium, omega 3’s rich foods and calming tea like chamomile in your diet.
9. Relaxation/ Visualization or Guided Imagery technique
Studies have shown that Relaxation with visualization or guided imagery can be utilized to overcome anxiety and encourage desired emotional and physical effects. Such proven techniques are implemented on high performing athletes to overcome performance anxiety.
10. Art Therapy/Music Therapy
Research has proven that Art therapy can significantly aid in reducing stress. When you are unable to express yourself, but you desire emotional release, making art may help you to do it. Creating art can be used to relieve stress and relax your mind and body. On the same lines research has shown that listening to relaxing music may also reduce anxiety, blood pressure, and stress hormones.
11. Connect back with your family or friends
Once you feel comfortable, connect back with your support group, your family and friends. Staying alone and dwelling in the past will only make things go worse. You feel stronger and positive when you interact, you will bounce back to recovery sooner. Studies have shown that those receiving support from their family members may feel a greater sense of self-worth, and enhanced self-esteem, optimism, positive affect, and better mental health.
Now that we know all the coping strategies, let us see how to apply it.
How to train the brain to transform the negative emotion?
- Set an intention to pause when you experience negative emotion.
- When you have a negative emotion trigger, pause and observe your body sensations, observe your breath.
- Practice slow deep breathing until you gain composure and bring your attention to the present moment.
- Try out a relaxation technique that works for you to transform the stress.
- With a calmer mind respond to the situation. Seek with inner guidance to resolve the situation and let go.
- Repeat until you master the technique
By applying this strategy to pause and mindfully navigate through your emotion, you will reinforce the new behavior pattern successfully. Slowly but surely you will be able to dissolve anger with compassion, replace worry with peace, melt hatred with love, replace sadness with happiness, take failures as opportunities for growth and overcome fears with courage.
Hope you found these 11 proven ways to transform negative emotions insightful. Thank you for your time, please share with your friends and family.
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