Monday, July 27, 2009

Controlling Emotions

It happens in countries around the world each and every day. Sometimes it happens in kitchens with granite countertops and sometimes in grass huts with mud floors. The "it" I'm speaking about is the age-old adage of crying over spilled milk.

Let's think about this for a moment. The container falls and the liquid white lurches to the floor.

Suddenly it is time to choose. Not what type of rag or bucket to get -- this choice is hardly worth discussing. Instead it's time to decide how we are going to react. For if we simply allow nature to takes its course then, of course, we are going to become upset. How does this work?

As we consciously recognize the milk falling, our stress hormones kick in. Cortisol and adrenaline get dumped into our bloodstream. Soon our hearts are beating wildly. Our lungs are breathless. Our minds are racing. We are upset. Maybe even angry. "This milk is supposed to be in a cup, not splattered on the floor!" you say to yourself. Then a few choice verbal explosions - words your latin teacher never taught you - automatically pop out of your mouth.

And now the real "fun" begins. Consider yourself front and centre of the biggest, baddest roller coaster ride you did ever see!

But what good comes from all of this? The answer, simply, is NO GOOD!

So what do we do?

Well, knowing what we know now, we prepare ourselves for the next time... and when next time happens and the milk falls, we start to laugh! That's right, LAUGH! Laughing induces good hormones and keeps us feeling good. In the meanwhile we can quickly clean up the spill and move on with our day, unaffected. Because the thing about hormones is this: though they only take a little while to get stimulated, they often linger in our body and show their effects for a while. SO... let's keep the happy hormones pumping! Let's keep laughing! Let's keep the endorphins flowing!


You know the story I just mentioned about spilled milk?


Well... the truth is... everything in life that goes badly or unexpectedly IS just another form of spilled milk. Deal with all these circumstances the same way.

Namely... control your hormones and emotions by laughing at yourself and the situation. While doing so, clean up the mess -- do what you have to do! Do what you can do! Learn to not worry about the rest... after all, there is nothing you can do about the things for which there is nothing you can do, so why worry?

Easier said than done, you say? Perhaps, but that doesn't mean it isn't the right thing to do!

Try it patient and keep trying... then let me know how it works!

Best wishes and don't give up!

Happiness is a CHOICE

It almost sounds ridiculous to hear that "Happiness is a choice." Why? Well, quite simply, because we have all felt the pains of unhappiness and know full well that there are times when it is hard to smile let alone laugh.

Let's be clear about something: whether you are Donald Trump, the Pope, or the guy downtown looking for a handout, life has it's ups and downs.

Being happy is a bit like being satisfied with your nutritional intake: being full only lasts so long and then one feels hungry again. And while the analogy is not perfect, I would suggest that in nature the natural tendency is to be sad as it is to be hungry. In a word -- we have to work to stay full and we have to work to stay happy.

So what is the "work" of being and staying happy, you rightfully ask. If there was a simple, straightforward, universal answer I would share it with you. So while there are many infomercials telling you something different, the truth is that there is a significant amount of individual difference with respect to what makes us as individuals happy. (For a more full review, please visit and download a free copy of my chapter, "Defining Happiness for Myself."

But the other aspect to keep in mind here is this: if something bad happens... if there is a flat tire, if we get laid off from work, if someone close to us dies... then we have a good reason to be unhappy. Grieving (of whatever type) is an important part of life. (Though contrary to what Charlie Brown said, I really doubt there is anything one would want to classify as "good grief.")

Truthfully, grieving sucks. Just like being hungry sucks.

On the other hand, how much would you enjoy your dinner if you spent the entire day nibbling on various foods? A continuously full stomach creates no enjoyment for the next meal.

The bottom line? Some difficulties, some upsets, some pains in life are unavoidable. The idea is not to spend endless time focusing on what has gone against our master plan. The concept I'm suggesting you buy into is that you allow yourself to grieve your loss and then compel yourself to move on with an openness to smiles and giggles and laughter. I'd even suggest you begin by humming a great song. It is really tough to be sad AND to hum at the same time. Try it and let me know your experiences!

Happy trails....