How are you feeling today?
I’ve been fascinated to recently read a study, which suggests that as humans, we all have just four basic emotions, glad, mad, sad and scared. If you’re a football supporter I’m sure you’ve probably experienced all these feelings over the last few days.
This finding, on face value, may seem absurd but, just as we have only 3 primary colours to fill the whole colour spectrum (cyan, magenta and yellow according to my thirsty printer) so, apparently, these four basic emotions can give rise to every other feeling we may have.
Perhaps even more revealing, however, is that most of us have, at our base, a ‘default’ emotion, one that we tend to fall back on as our ‘natural’ inclination.
In some people, particularly men, unfortunately, there is a tendency to convert any and all emotional experiences into anger. Feeling anxious, sad, disgusted, ashamed, embarrassed or scared, they automatically translate this into the one emotion.
Sadly, this is a memory I still have of my long-departed granddad who, it seemed to me as a child, was almost permanently angry or just on the verge. Perhaps related to the fact he was born into a generation of people who were encouraged to suppress their feelings and not discuss them, act like a ‘real’ man (whatever that was) and that he lived through, and was directly affected by the horrors of two world wars, he sadly spent his last few years in mainly bitter reflection, affected by related stomach problems and other physical ailments associated with this emotion.
Today, medications that affect feelings are a billion pound industry. And people will spend considerable time and money finding the right medicine to help them to feel better.
But the truth is, that while many believe that the way we feel is just ‘given’, we do actually have a choice. And the starting point is to ask how do you want to feel? How many positive emotions do you want to experience during your day?
We need to be honest with ourselves. If we have a tendency to convert our feelings into one habitual emotion we need to be aware of it, discover what the emotion is. Then get into the habit of looking beyond that default emotion and searching yourself for what you really are feeling. So that instead of being led by those emotions you can begin to deal with them in a constructive, positive manner.
Taking this one step further, how about practicing a different emotion each day? Take for example gratitude. What if you intentionally practiced feeling gratitude, finding ways to be thankful, appreciative and recognize the positive contributions of people around you for a few days?
Being determined to exercise choice over our emotions can make a real difference. You can choose how you feel, and this, in turn, will affect how you think, how you behave, and how you interact with life.
So, whatever is happening around you, take a little time to practice those emotional responses and look forward to feeling a little more glad, a little less sad!