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Why we should say no to positivity — and yes to our negative emotions

Susan David

“Being positive has become a new form of moral correctness.”

Susan David

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Why we should say no to positivity — and yes to our negative emotions

Why we should say no to positivity — and yes to our negative emotions

https://ideas.ted.com/why-we-should-say-no-to-positivity-and-yes-to-our-negative-emotions/

ideas.ted.com

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Key Ideas

Susan David

Susan David

“Being positive has become a new form of moral correctness.”

Forced positivity

Suppressing or avoiding our difficult emotions is not healthy or helpful.

Doing this impairs our capacity to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. And this leads to lower levels of resilience, lower levels of wellbeing, and higher levels of depression and anxiety.

Labeling difficult emotions

An important way of dealing with a difficult emotion is to label it effectively.

Labeling your emotions more accurately helps you understand the cause of those emotions and triggers your ability to set goals and to make real concrete changes.

Emotions and compassion

Identify your emotions with compassion.

Compassion allows you to foster a safe space inside of you, a space in which you feel capable of taking more risks: you’re ready to analyze and explore the world and you know that if things don’t go right, everything is still ok.

You are not your emotions

Create space between you and what you’re feeling and act as an observer by naming all the aspects of your experience.

Don't identify with your emotions. Doing this puts you in charge rather than the emotion.

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False positivity

We are caught up in a rigid culture that values positivity.

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Tough emotions are essential for living

How we deal with our emotions affects how we love, how we live, how we parent and how we lead.

We should not view our emotions as good or bad, positive or negative. We need our emotions for real resilience.

Moving Beyond Emotional Rigidity

When we go through tough situations, we cannot ignore our negative emotions with the hope that they don't matter.

Write down what you are truly feeling in a personal notebook. Move beyond the rigidity of denial.

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Self-compassion can work wonders

Self-compassion enables you to take risks while being positive about the fact that even if things do not turn out your way, everything will eventually be fine, as you are still the same person.

Self-compassion and its effect

The main difference between individuals who show a certain level of self-compassion and the ones who show none or lower is that the first ones have the strength to stand up after having made a mistake, learn something from this mistake and be successful next time.

Learning self-compassion

A sure way of practicing self-compassion is by actually trying to learn lessons from all your experiences, especially the negative ones. 

You should stop judging these experiences as being good or bad, but rather look for the meaning of each and every one of them.

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Emotions

They are basal responses that begin in the subcortical areas of the brain responsible for producing biochemical reactions to environmental stimuli that have a direct impact on our physical state.&n...

Feelings

Feelings are preceded by emotions and tend to be our reactions to them. Emotions are a more generalized experience across humans, but feelings are more subjective and influenced by our personal experiences and interpretations, thus they are harder to measure.

Negative Emotions

They can be defined as unpleasant or unhappy emotions evoked in individuals to express a negative effect towards something.

Although some are labeled negative, all emotions are normal to the human experience. And it’s important to understand when and why negative emotions might arise, and develop positive behaviors to address them.

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Albert Einstein

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. "

Albert Einstein
Curiosity declines with age

Children are extremely curious. They keep asking, "why?" and explore new things just because they want to know.

But research shows that during the schooling years, curiosity steadily declines, and as adults, we fall into fixed and convenient thought patterns.

The mechanics of curiosity

Research around curiosity found that children at age 5 scored 98% on a creativity test. When the same children took the test at age 10, only 30% scored well on the test. By age 15, only 12% of the same children did well. Less than 2% of adults are defined as creative based on their answer to this standardised test.

Science suggests this decrease in curiosity could be caused when we feel there's no gap between what we know and what we want to know, so we just stop being curious.

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Living through emotional reactions

Even in our most mundane moments. Our emotions aren’t always overwhelming us, but they are always affecting us, coloring our perceptions and opinions about ourselves and our world.

The “fish in water” effect

Because we are immersed in our emotions’ effects every moment of our lives, we tend to talk about them only when they’re exceptionally strong.

Emotions work like spectacles

It's a huge help to know which lens you’re seeing the world through, at any given moment. When we can identify the most prominent emotion right now, we’re less likely to project that emotion’s characteristics on the situation itself, or on the world at large.

Eating Distract from Emotions

We often associate eating with relief or even excitement, and it’s only natural that we’d reach for those same feelings when we’re worried or sad.

Why we choose comfort food

Comfort foods don’t tend to be healthy. We want cake or pasta or chips when we’re emotionally eating. We have emotional memories around certain foods, which are more likely to involve your grandma’s lasagna than a salad. 

But after we eat for emotional reasons, we’re replacing our original feelings with the emotions that arise out of eating.

Comfort food

We associate comfort food with positive memories.

Think about all the happy and comforting memories you have involving food. Maybe your family used to celebrate occasions with a trip to the ice cream shop, or maybe your mom or dad used to soften the blow of a bad day with macaroni and cheese. When you’re feeling rejected or anxious today, eating one of those foods is an instant connection to that soothing time.

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Emotions During a Difficult Conversation

It’s hard not to get worked up emotionally when you’re in a tense conversation: a disagreement can feel like a threat.

But if your body goes into “fight or flight” mode,  ...

Breathe

When you start noticing yourself getting tense, try to focus on breathing (on feeling the air coming in and out of your lungs).

This will take your attention off the physical signs of panic and keep you centered.

Focus on your body

Sitting still when you’re having a difficult conversation can make the emotions build up rather than dissipate. 

Standing up and walking around helps to activate the thinking part of your brain.

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Emotional clarity

It means that we have a good understanding of how we feel emotionally. 

Label your emotions

Use plain language. The more fluent you are with real emotional language, the more clearly you will be able to think about how you’re feeling.

Clarify your emotions

Get used to the idea of emotional complexity. When we feel upset, we're not feeling one single emotion. We are usually experiencing a blend of many emotions.

Training ourselves to look for and see this emotional complexity is key to better understanding ourselves when we’re upset and moving on in a healthy way.

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Human Emotions

An emotion is an objective state that exhibits itself in many ways like behavior, facial expression, heart rate, blood pressure, and stress-hormone levels. Broadly speaking, we kn...

New Kinds of Emotions

  • Mix N match Emotions: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is a newly coined mix of envy, fear, and sadness.
  • Social Emotions: Feelings like guilt, shame and embarrassment are social emotions, and can even be found in dogs.
  • Fear: Emotions like fear and anxiety are hard to pinpoint in the brain's geographical area, due to the presence of multiple fear circuits.

If our emotions are constructed by our minds, it means they can also be de-constructed or even reconstructed.

Labelling Emotions

The brain loves to identify, tag, or label all the feelings and emotions that are being experienced.

New studies show that changing the name of the emotion can change the feeling that is produced by hearing that emotion, and the brain may be able to create or make up emotions that don't have a label yet.

Effects of music on productivity
Effects of music on productivity
  • Listening to music with lyrics is distracting for most people. It’s best to avoid it when working on tasks that require focus or the learning of new information.
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Music and the brain

Music has a real impact on human emotions and perception. Music activates different areas of the brain in different people, but there are general brain and mood patterns revealed by music research.

For the most part, research suggests that listening to music can improve your efficiency, creativity and happiness in terms of work-related tasks.