I actually tell my clients that when you are in a low emotional state (fearful, anxious, nervous, stuck, angry, etc.) you are most likely operating from the mid part of the brain, sometimes referred to as the mammalian brain, and therefore have the brain power of a dog.
Hands up if you are at your most effective, innovative and creative when you are in a funky (negative) emotional state? Same thing before. Repetition is the mother of learning after all.
I am tipping that your hand is not up. 🙂
So…this means that to be most effective in life, to make the best decisions and therefore get the best results, we want to be in ‘elevated’ emotional states and accessing the cortex part of the brain. Ideally, for the most creative ideas and work, we might even want to go beyond that and get into a more alpha brainwave state. However, first we need to get out of the reactive emotional part of our brain.
Therefore let’s look at the best ways to shift your emotional state from funk, to FRIGGIN AWESOME!!! (or at least feeling a lot more chipper)
Simple Technique #1 for getting out of an emotional funk: Getting your Wonder Woman on
It turns out that Wonder Woman was on to something.
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist that has researched body language, acknowledges that the body language we adopt not only changes other people’s perceptions of us, but can actually change our biology. In particular increasing testosterone (a power hormone), and reducing cortisol (the stress hormone).
Cuddy calls it ‘power posing’. You can check out her TED Talk here.
The power moves include:
– The Wonder Woman (hands on hips, feet apart, chest open, shoulders back, and the right look on your face ;-))
– The Victory stance (Arms up in the victory salute, preferably standing in a Wonder Woman like stance)
– I am the boss (hands clasped behind the head, and preferably feet up on the desk ;-))
Hold these poses for a couple of minutes and let the magic begin.
All of these poses also open up the chest. Letting the heart expand and enhancing your ability to breathe openly, which research is now acknowledging cools down the activation of the amygdala (fight, flight or freeze trigger in the mid brain). Specifically it is the in-breath through the nose.
Simple Technique #2 for getting out of an emotional funk: Yes…smile
The last thing you probably want to do when you are in a funk smile.
But would you rather stay in a funk, or would you rather do something you don’t feel like doing, in order to get out of your funk?
Again research shows that the body can affect the brain. As opposed to just being the other way around. You can change your physiology to change your internal biology. It is the same with the power moves.
And the interesting fact is that using botox has been found to affect people’s moods. Because people’s faces can get stuck in a sort of stasis pattern, the emotions that are triggered by certain facial expressions are not available. And one of the downsides is that empathy, which comes from the ability to mirror someone’s facial patterns, is all but impossible when your face is locked in neutral with botox.
So…if you were thinking of having a shot of botox to make you look better (???), perhaps it will not help you feel better. Hmmmm.
Maybe those smile lines are the better choice after all.
There was also another study I read which had people who struggled to smile (for instance experiencing depression). grip a pencil between their teeth, to force a smile-like physical expression, and it actually changed their mood.
Don’t wait for something to happen to make you smile and feel good. Just smile for no reason and feel the goodness occur all by itself, which is likely to cause a cascading effect.
(And to take this to the next level also look up, open your chest, pull your shoulders back, stand tall and breathe deeply).
Simple Technique #3 for getting out of an emotional funk: Crossed Hand Breathing
We have already established that an in-breath through the nose is beneficial for cooling down the amygdala, but let’s take this breathing thing to the next level.
The technique is called crossed-hand breathing.
It is based on the theory that when our arms or legs crossed the central meridian line of the body (or the central nervous system) we actually increase the activation and integration between the left and right hemispheres of our brain.
The technique goes like this:
– Cross your left ankle over your right ankle.
– Put your left hand on your right shoulder
– Put your right hand on your right shoulder (this means opposite hands and ankles are crossed)
– Breathe in through your nose
– Breathe out through your mouth
– On the in-breath put your tongue on the roof of your mouth
– On the out-breath put your tongue on the base of the mouth (this changes the flow of energy through the meridian lines of your body)
Do this for 2-3 minutes as you focus on harmonizing and relaxing the body.
Another (even simpler) option is to walk on the spot in a cross-crawl pattern (opposite arms and legs are coming up each time, like marching in the military). Have your arms cross the central line of the body too. Plus deepen your breath at the same time.
And then there is Garudasana…Eagle Pose in Yoga (obviously the picture on the right ;-)).
Again, physiology changing biology (in your brain).
Simple Techniques for getting out of an emotional funk: Bonuses
- Go for a walk in nature.
- Speak to an empathetic friend.
- Change what you are focusing on.
- Relax your stomach.
- Massage your stomach.
- Think of three things you are grateful for, and then feel the gratitude.
- Remember 3 times from your past when something you thought would be a disaster turned out (in the end) to actually be ok.
- Pat a dog (one that you know won’t bite you ;-)).
- Do alternate nostril breathing.
If you are stuck emotionally, move physically.
The key takeaway is that we can change our biology when we change our physiology.
In particular, draw more oxygen into your body via your nostrils. When you calm down your emotions, you get to see things from different perspectives, and you might realise that everything will be ok, or this too will pass, or that maybe you are making assumptions and don’t have the full picture.
Move your body. Move your mind.
And yes. I know you’ve got this!