Trick your brain and turn your frown upside down! How to manage negative emotions. Blog by Tiffany Barnard22nd March 2021
Have you ever had a time in your life when getting out of bed was almost more than you could bear? Those early morning minutes spent cowering under the covers, dreading the moment when your feet will hit the floor and reality will have to be faced…
Most of us have felt this at some point in our lives and for very different reasons, but whatever the trigger, the outcome is all too similar. The black cloud of desolation sets in, engulfing us and filling our souls with negativity. Overwhelming us with the feeling that we just can’t. Can’t do anything.
Of course, we all had people around us who tried to help with well-meaning but ultimately hollow clichés that did nothing to lift the fog. We may have had obligations that forced us out of bed or maybe we weren’t that lucky and had no real reason to start the day.
I have been there. I was lucky in as much as I had my family around me, supporting me and gently pushing me to move out of the fog and forward into the light. But even then, it was an almighty battle with myself every morning…for many mornings.
How did I drag myself out from under the covers?
Well, eventually I made the decision to get up every day with a smile on my face. Was the smile real? Not at all! But that didn’t matter because I had all day to find a reason for that smile. And so, I would have a shower and make my bed and open the door from my bedroom and face reality.
Why mention the bed and the shower? Often when we are feeling this low our inner voices (mine is called Bob) are particularly vocal and are prone to being super bitchy and we end up adding to our anguish by reprimanding ourselves for not having achieved or accomplished anything during the day. Having a shower and making our bed is one way that we can appease our inner Bobs, at least a little, and feel as though we have achieved something.
Anyway, I digress…
These two mammoth tasks accomplished, I would prepare myself for the outside world and my task of finding a reason for my smile that morning. I would force myself to pay attention to everything! People, animals, emails, phone calls, everything. Looking for the slightest thing that could be construed as positive, fun, sweet, kind, whatever, and you know what? I found those little things all over the place!
The vendor at the market who gave me a date to try because I looked like I needed something sweet in my life. That date was the most amazing thing that I have ever tasted!
The email that arrived out of the blue.
The smile from the elderly lady in the park.
The puppy playing with the little girl.
An unexpected “I love you” from my kids.
A glass of wine with my mum.
I found the reason for my smile every day and slowly but surely, the smile on my face in the morning became less forced, more sincere and with this change came the change in my outlook. I slowly became more positive and as a result I found that I had more energy and more confidence and found it easier to participate more in life. I found my laughter again too!
It wasn’t until years later, when I started studying to become a life coach that I realised that the way I had decided to cope with my depressive state was actually a known thing (or method if you want to be more technical).
Unfortunately, our brains learn generally from the negative and painful experiences that we have had in our lives and will always try to protect us by avoiding a repeat performance of those experiences. It makes sense really since you are more at risk from these experiences than the fun positive ones.
That said the good news is that we can trick our brains into feeling happy! Yes we can and it is very easy to do! All you have to do is smile! Even a fake smile can increase the levels of hormones like dopamine and serotonin in your body. Furthermore, studies show that if you don’t use your facial muscles to smile, the brain simply thinks that it isn’t time to be happy.
You will also find, as you are wondering around smiling, that people will react differently to you. They will return your smile and will probably find you to be more approachable which in turn fosters those fabulously unexpected conversations with strangers that help you to feel less alone in the world and slowly but surely, the fog will lift and the sun will shine once again.
It’s a fake it till you make it concept, but you know what? It works!
I look forward to connecting with you!
P.S. If you are struggling with your negative inner voice, book a discovery call with me and let’s see if we can’t turn that frown upside down.