We Can Choose Our Feelings (but it’s not always easy)

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.” ~Wayne Dyer

It can be difficult to admit we have a choice in our emotions. Feelings often creep up on us uninvited and unexpected, and we avoid responsibility, acting as if we have little control over them. Indeed, feelings do have a manner of unpredictability, however, it’s misguided to think we are helpless to the array of feelings we have. It’s true we can’t always control the onset of feelings we experience, especially the more negative ones (think disappointment, sadness, grief, hurt, frustration),  but we do have a choice in how we emotionally responDrama20Facesd.

Some of us have a tendency toward the glass is half-full perspective, others seem to lean toward an Eyeore-inspired attitude of seeing the glass as half-empty. The message here is that you can decide how you see the glass. One way to do this is a reframe. Essentially, you put a different frame on the picture which allows you to see it differently. The new frame provides a different perspective which leads to different feelings. And, you guessed it, you can choose how you want to frame things. Awareness of the power we have over our emotions and deciding to take play a part in our own feelings is a first step.

Here are some other tips and reminders for taking ownership of your feelings and finding a shift from the negative to the positive.

Remind yourself how you want to feel Keep your emotional goal in mind and appreciate the journey.  Affirmations can be really helpful, especially when you run into a bump in the road. An affirmation is a short, powerful thought that offers a positive perspective. They provide gentle prompts of the way we want to feel and the life we want to live. Use them as a guide and a tool. “Today, I want to respond with patience.” “Today, I want to have a positive outlook on my experiences.”

What’s the lesson? Every experience can be a teacher, and often, the best lessons come out of the most challenging situations. Is there someone difficult in your life? Perhaps the lesson is patience. Life has a way of repeating a situation to give us the lessons we need to. It’s our job to learn them.

Put things into perspective– some will say feelings are never wrong. I’m not so sure about that. Feelings are always valid, because they are there, but our feelings are based on other things- our perceptions of others, our assumptions, our own insecurities, our values and beliefs, etc. Sometimes, we need to check ourselves and examine the source of the feelings. From there, we might find it easier to choose a more positive sentiment.

We don’t go from 0-100 or 100-0. Be patient with yourself. If you are in a deep state of grief, it will take time to transition out of it. And you might go through acceptance, contentment, and peace before you experience joy again. We don’t move immediately from heartbreak to happiness; there are many steps along the way. But the states of grace, gratitude, inner peace, and harmony, can eventually get you to place of happiness.

The important thing is Kodak-fork-in-the-roadto recognize that you have emotional choice. I’m not saying it’s easy, but taking ownership of your emotions is worth it.  And you won’t get it right all the time. Sometimes, only a big bowl of ice cream and hours watching your favorite television episodes may be all you have. And that’s okay. The Team Better perspective would tell you to go on a hike, do a yoga class, connect with your closest friends. But hey, sometimes we sit on the couch too, only I prefer a big plate of french fries.

We want to hear from you. How do you chose emotional positivity? What works? What doesn’t’? The great thing is, we are in this together.

More reading:

A therapist’s take on how we have choice over our feelings: http://jupitercenter.com/feelings-good-and-bad-make-your-choice

For a more detailed account of reframing then you probably ever wanted, check out this article: http://blog.iqmatrix.com/reframing-thoughts

lorri sulpizio

About lorri sulpizio

Lorri is a former college-basketball coach and personal trainer, turned leadership professional. She is Director of the Leadership Institute at the University of San Diego and principal consultant at Lotus Leadership Institute. She loves anything fitness, reading and spending time with her kids and family.