Our health and fitness has a profound impact on our emotional lives. Our bodies are where our emotions are experienced and stored. It is within our bodies that we discover the key to unlocking our emotional intelligence.When an emotion is triggered in your brain, it sends a series of impulses all over your brain and body. Each emotion contains a “program” that causes very specific physiological changes that ready us for certain actions.
In other words, emotions live inside our bodies, and alter our physical experience.
For instance, the energy of sadness often feels heavy, anger feels choppy and sporadic, shame feels condensed and shrunken, excitement feels energized.
Conversely, by changing our physiology, we can alter our emotional experience.
For instance, when we’re angry, our breathing tends to be more shallow, we lean forward, and we feel the urge to be impulsive. By consciously slowing and deepening our breathing, clearing our minds, leaning backward and slowing down to a manageable pace, we can directly affect our anger and hear more clearly what it’s telling us before acting on it.
When we learn to slow down and listen to our bodies, they have an awful lot to tell us. At any given moment, we can find out (often to our own surprise) how we actually feel about something.
Tuning into your body can tell you whether you’re calm or stressed, feeling confident or discouraged, satisfying your needs, honoring yourself, feeling violated, safe, stuck, and so much more…
Oftentimes, the solutions to our problems lie inside our emotional-body, if only we would learn to listen and honor its messages.
Here are some simple ways you can use your body to affect positive emotional transformation in your life:
This one is a given, but is so crucial to our emotional health that it can’t be overlooked or left behind.
There have been countless studies showing the benefits of exercise and movement on our mood. Regular vigorous movement reduces stress, boosts our endorphins (aka happy chemicals!), improves our self-confidence, sharpens our minds, grounds us, inspires our creativity, and so much more.
When you add an emotional component to your workouts, they can also help you metabolize your feelings. For instance, if you’re feeling angry, allow yourself to release that anger through your exercise. Channel your aggression into the physical realm and release it out. Invite your feelings (whatever they may be) to come through your movement.
Improve Your Posture
The next time you’re feeling sad and discouraged, pay close attention to your posture. According to cognitive scientists, you’ll likely be slumped over with your neck and shoulders curved forward and head looking down.
While it’s true that you’re sitting this way because you’re sad, it’s also true that you’re sad because you’re sitting this way.
This concept, known as embodied cognition, is the idea that the relationship between our mind, body and emotions run both ways… meaning our mind/emotions influence the way our body reacts, but the form of our body also triggers our mind/emotions.
Recent experiments show that sitting in a collapsed, helpless position makes it easier for negative thoughts and memories to manifest, while sitting in an upright, powerful position makes it easier to have empowering thoughts and memories.
Just two minutes of sitting or standing up taller can alter your emotional state in amazingly powerful ways.
Eating Right For Your Body Type
The food we choose to consume is critical to our emotional wellbeing, since they directly affect our biochemistry (which is one of the greatest influencers in our emotional lives and our brain chemistry).
There are many factors to consider when determining your ideal diet. Your metabolism, your blood type and your genetic history are all factors you may want to consider.
But no matter what your body type is, humans all have the basic need to eat fresh, nutrient-dense, whole foods that make more energy deposits than they do withdrawals. Increasing the amount of these foods, while decreasing your intake of processed foods, is virtually guaranteed to positively affect your emotional experience.
Just observe the difference in how you feel one hour after eating a beautiful nutrient-rich salad with multiple servings of fresh vegetables, fruits and lean protein… vs. a fast-food fried chicken sandwich, French fries and a soda. Your body, energy and emotions really do speak for themselves.
Find Where Your Feelings Live in Your Body
People spend so much time talking about how they feel. They attend workshops, visit therapists, and vent their feelings to anyone who will listen. They intellectualize and analyze their feelings… they think and talk about them… but they rarely feel them.
Emotions are physiological sensations that occur within your physical body. Therefore, developing an awareness of exactly WHERE you are feeling them, HOW they feel, and what you can do to release them in healthy ways, can be the key to emotional freedom.
Click here for a map of emotional anatomy, and more information on how locating your emotion’s origins can be the key to unlocking and releasing them.
E.F.T. (Emotional Freedom Technique)
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a type of psychological acupressure. While it makes use of the same energy meridians known in traditional acupuncture, EFT does not involve needles. Instead, gentle tapping with your fingertips is used to transfer kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem — whether it is a traumatic event, an addiction, pain, anxiety, etc. — and voice positive affirmations.
This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the emotional block from your body’s bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body’s balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical dis-ease.
Clinical trials have shown that EFT is able to rapidly reduce the emotional impact of memories and incidents that trigger emotional distress. Once the distress is reduced or removed, your body can often rebalance itself, and accelerate healing.
Click here for a video that demonstrates how to tap for stress and anger.
Modern research has confirmed the connection between breathing and emotions.
Different emotional states are associated with distinct respiratory patterns. For example, rapid, shallow breathing occurs when one is anxious, while deep, slow breathing is associated with a state of relaxation.
Breath is unique among autonomic functions of the body, in that it can happen automatically (like digestion and heartbeat) OR it can be controlled. For this reason breath does not automatically accompany an emotional state but can, instead, be used to change one’s emotional state.
Studies have shown that purposeful, rapid, shallow breathing will cause anxiety while deep, slow breathing will create relaxation.
Here are three powerful types of yogic breathing that can benefit you in an intense emotional experience:
- Belly Breathing: Sometimes called diaphragmatic breathing, since it is marked by expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest, this technique is generally considered a healthier and fuller way to ingest oxygen, and is often used to reduce anxiety and stress and create a calming effect in the body. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5H_Qrcmxdg
- Alternate Nostril Breathing: This method is said to cool the mind and emotions while reducing stress and anxiety. Like the name, it involves alternating breathing through each nostril. It also can improve sleep, encourage a calmer emotional state, boost your thinking power and soothe your nervous system, all while balancing both hemispheres of the brain. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCK1jBfRVsE
- The 4-7-8 Breath (or Relaxing Breath): Some people have claimed this method to be the single most effective technique to reduce anxiety and retrain the nervous system to become calmer. It’s helpful with depression, irritability, muscle tension, headaches, and fatigue. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MwlCk9XTz_U