It is difficult if not impossible to separate your mental condition from your emotional condition. However, we need to look at emotions separately here because they might get ignored if we just took a limited mental focus.
For many years scientists thought that there must be a place in the brain for anger, another for joy, another for fear, and so on for the many different emotions including happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise, and others. But recent research has determined that emotions are combinations of mental and hormonal responses to a perceived situation. Each such emotional response is constructed in the moment, involving different parts of the brain, in a microsecond.
This concept of how emotions are made on the spot is called constructivism. And creating each emotion happens so fast, it actually occurs before we can even feel it! So let’s say we are walking in the woods and suddenly see a big bear coming at us, and we feel fear and the urge to run away. We think that is a reaction to seeing the bear, but actually it is a prediction of how we need to respond. Our glands pump adrenaline and other “fight or flight” hormones to energize our muscles to save our lives. And all this is good if it is in fact a bear.
But the same thing happens when we encounter someone at work or in a store somewhere that we perceive as a threat. All those hormones come flooding in, our bodies feel on fire, and there is nothing we can do but suck it up. Situations like this cause stress and are very hard on human minds and bodies and hearts. Modern humans\’ inability to flee or fight when encountering a threat in a business or social situation is one reason stress is so devastating for so many people, leading to all sorts of mental, physical and emotional illnesses.
So what is your emotional state in general? Are you happy or depressed? Are you positive about your life and future or negative, worried or anxious? Do you feel loved, and do you love others easily? Do you have anger issues and sometimes explode?
Emotions are like thermometers that give us readings (feelings) of our various internal conditions. Most often emotions are triggered by mental processes, which may be conscious, subconscious or unconscious. They can also be habitual, for example, every time you look at your messy room you feel down. And emotions can be a continuing state, like being in a new love relationship or long-term depression.
An effective way to boost your emotions is to practice gratitude. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to think about what you are grateful for. Even better, create a gratitude journal and write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for from that day or any day. Over time this can lead you to view life in a much more positive manner and feel good about it.
To some degree you can control your emotions through mental override. For example you can learn to overcome feelings of anxiety or impending panic by telling yourself over and over, “I am calm and in control.” You can learn to control other emotions in a similar manner, and this can greatly enhance your success in life. But it takes work. More on this later.
Take a few minutes now to write down your current emotional state, any problems you’re having, and how you would like to feel if you were as successful as you would like to be.
Next, we explore the spiritual dimensions of life.