Hey there friends..
Is anyone else very impressed with the direction Pixar has taken with animated films and the impression they are making on the minds of our youth and adults alike? Every one of their movies leave us with a lasting impact, message or call to action.
As Business Insider puts it, “Pixar understands that the most important stories resonate with people because they appeal to some core truth about being alive — regardless of whether those stories are seen through the eyes of monsters, clownfish, robots, or cars.”
One of my favorite recent releases is their movie, “Inside Out.” If you haven’t already seen it, I recommend it very highly. For those of you who don’t know, the movie is about Riley, an 11 year old girl, who’s family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. For an 11 year old, and for anyone, this is a big life event and naturally stirs up all sorts of emotions.
In the movie, each one of her emotions is given a character. Her emotion, and the central character, Joy, is in a constant battle, as she fights her way to bring more happiness to Riley’s life in San Francisco. But with all of the trials and tribulations, adjusting to a new town, new school and new friends, Riley doesn’t make it easy on Joy.
As Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear (all characters in the movie) start to surface more often than ever before, Joy tries tirelessly to suppress them.
Without giving the whole movie away, I will simply point out a key lesson,
“In order to keep our brains healthy, we need to respect our emotions, even the bad ones.”
All of our emotions are valid. And it is inevitable that at any time in our lives, they will be felt. No one is exempt. But it’s how we handle, how we control and how we react to these emotions that determines our Emotional Wellness.
Biologically speaking, we are hardwired to experience joy and happiness. In this state, endorphins like serotonin and dopamine are released, which are required for many physiological processes like sleep, digestion and metabolism. The brain is also able to think clearly, the cells of the body are nourished and the immune system is strengthened.
When we experience emotions that make the body feel as though it is being threatened, the body shuts down these “less vital” processes. You may have heard the caveman scenario of fight or flight response. Anger, frustration, fear and sadness place a stress on the body and when we are in a stressful state, chemicals, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are released in order to prepare the body to fight or run away from the perceived threat.
“Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction.”
As this study from Harvard Medical School shows, a constant state of these negative emotions is a threat to our health and wellness.
The important thing to note here is the emphasis on prolonged or chronic stress. Stress, when experienced over a long period of time, without being mitigated or dealt with, can be detrimental to our health. This is why it is vital to feel, express and move through our emotions, not allowing them to result in prolonged stress.
So how exactly is that accomplished? By using our intelligence. The intelligent mind is able to bring conscious awareness to the emotion so we may experience it, acknowledge it and eventually detach ourselves from it, rather than become it.
“Use your human intelligence in the best way you can; transform your emotions in a positive way.” —Dalai Lama
We were all born to feel love and bliss, that is who we are at our core. By cultivating an internal sense of peace and calmness, we are able to access that core being more easily.
Life has a way of presenting itself to muddy the mind and convince us that there is pain and suffering in the world. But the messages that are not presented often enough are the ones that tell us we make a choice every day of how we want to perceive the world.
Terrible things certainly happen, it’s the inevitability of life and we cannot escape the reality of it. But it is the wise, noble and evolved individual who recognizes that they are simply witnessing these events, not a victim to them.
A few years ago, and for as long as I could remember, I would begin each day by rubbing my eyes open and immediately turning on the TV to the local and national news station.
At once, my brain would be hyper focused on all of the problems in the world, much of which I had no immediate impact or connection to. It would trigger a myriad of emotions from sadness, guilt, fear and disgust. I would watch it as I drank my coffee, ate my breakfast, got myself ready and headed out the door to embark on my day.
But what kind of start to the day is that? Starting out this way gave me no chance to decide how I wanted to feel. I was told, there are people in the world who are suffering, so any sense of happiness is wrong, invalid and unjust.
The habit we need to get into is using our intelligence to decipher which emotion is ours to be had.
After going on a yoga retreat and experiencing what it was like, for the first time, to start my day looking out on the ocean, meditating and tuning into my own wellbeing, I decided that this was how I wanted to start my day. I want to be in control of my happiness, and if I decide that today is a good day, well by damn it will be.
We have enough moments in our lives that will certainly justify emotions of sadness, anger, disgust and fear. But it is within our power to decide how long those emotions are going to last.
The quicker we respond and become aware of these emotions, the quicker we can move through them and go back to our natural, peaceful state.
The most consistent and helpful tool I’ve developed to enhance my Emotional Wellness is my breath. When we find a long, deep, smooth breath, the rapid thoughts and emotional chatter start to find stillness.
Finding our breath allows our aware and conscious mind to take control and evaluate the situation. It is from this state we are able to tap into our unique intelligence, experience and move through the emotion.
Here are just a few ways to evaluate your situation:
- Identify the emotion: what am I feeling?
- Identify the cause of the emotion: why am I feeling this way?
- Identify your environment is safe and experience the emotion.
Once you have given yourself a chance to feel and experience it… shelf it, and move on.
It seems simple, maybe even objective and impersonal, but life is constantly changing, and the best, most important, quality you can acquire is adaption to the world around you.
Let the small things go and breathe through the ones that test your resilience.
Know that YOU are in control and you deserve to thrive in this world in a way that is calm, peaceful and kind.