Most of us know that feeling good is not only about feeling good — it’s about how feeling good affects everything we experience and do in life. When we’re feeling good, we’re more likely to get things done, more likely to be more social, eat healthier, exercise, and complete projects — than when we’re not feeling good.
The challenge comes in being able to feel good when things are not going the way we’d like them to go.
The challenge is being able to feel good when things go wrong, or when we don’t have what we want.
I’ve discovered a very, very simple, but incredibly powerful 2-minute technique that — if you practice it regularly — will help you to develop the ability to change your emotional state from triggered to feeling good, instantly, on-demand.
What is Feeling Good?
In order to get the most out of this technique, it will help to understand (and remind yourself) exactly what “feeling good” is:
- Positive emotions are the sensations we feel from chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.
- Negative emotions are the sensations we feel from stress chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol.
- Thoughts are connections between neurons, in the neocortex of the brain.
- Connections in the neocortex trigger the limbic system to produce matching chemicals. To put it simplistically, for clarity: thoughts about “bad” stuff will trigger stress chemicals, and thoughts about “good” stuff will trigger happy chemicals.
Why Is it So Hard to Feel Good Sometimes?
I remember trying so hard to think positively, and “look on the bright side” while looking at my empty bank account. I also remember trying to be positive about situations that involved being let down or disappointed by the actions and behaviors of other people. And the worst times — when I was working so hard to make changes to myself and my life, and yet there seemed to be so much self-sabotage and failure.
I knew that the negative feelings and stress were not only not helping the situation, they were making it worse — they were affecting my judgement, my energy level, my creativity and productivity, but I didn’t seem to have any control over them.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pull myself out of those intense negative emotions.
I later found out why:
The stress chemicals that cause negative emotions are the same chemicals that are produced during the “fight-freeze-flight” emergency state.
So, when we’re feeling worried, anxious, angry, hurt, or any other negative emotion, the body and brain are basically in the same state they would be in, if we were in physical danger.
In order to survive physical danger, it’s necessary to pay attention, and focus on the threat until it’s gone. So, stress chemicals are strong, and have a powerful effect on the body. We’re designed to go into the “fight-freeze-flight” state, to survive physical danger. And once that danger has passed, the chemical state of the brain and body returns to homeostasis.
The effects of stress chemicals on the body include:
- Blood is pumped away from the organs, to the extremities, for running away or fighting.
- Digestion, and other systems that are not essential for surviving immediate physical danger, are reduced or shut down.
- Healing is halted by the cells of the body switching from growth mode, to protection mode.
- Blood is drained from the prefrontal cortex of the brain, to the back of the brain — reducing or shutting down cognitive thinking.
All of these effects are perfectly natural and healthy — short-term. As you can imagine, the problem comes when we live in that emergency state.
The reason it’s so difficult to get out of negative feelings is:
The brain and body can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. In other words — you only need to remember someone saying something hurtful to you, for your brain and body to produce the stress chemicals that will cause the feelings of hurt. You only need to think about something you’re frightened of, for your brain and body to produce the stress chemicals that cause the feelings of fear.
The great news — and the reason the following technique works — is: You also only need to think about something you love, for your brain and body to produce the chemicals that cause good feelings!
How Your Emotions are Directly Affecting Your Results in All Areas of Life
Here’s the physilogical connection between your emotions and your results in all areas of your life…
How to Feel Good On-Demand
Bearing in mind that thoughts are connections between neurons that trigger matching chemicals, as you think of something or someone you love or are excited about, your limbic system immediately starts to create “feel-good” chemicals.
Take a moment, right now, to think about someone or something you love. Pick someone or something you don’t have any negative feelings about. In other words — no worry, missing, longing, or mixed feelings. Pets are an excellent choice since they usually don’t come with any “baggage”. You could also choose a friend or family member you only have good feelings about, someone who makes you laugh. Or something you love doing — for example: a hobby, an activity you enjoy. It could also be a place you love, or just something you think is beautiful — a particular flower, your favorite color, or exquisite scenery. I chose my son when he was a baby. But I’ve also used animals — penguins, in particular because I think they’re so cute! I’ve used music I love, and beautiful scenes, and the colors purple and gold.
Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine holding that person, animal, place, activity, or thing, in your arms in a hug. This may seem odd when it comes to activities and places, but you’ll be surprised at how easy it can be. Remember, this is not real, it’s just your imagination, and there’s no limit to the budget or special effects inside your imagination! It doesn’t need to make logical sense. You can imagine hugging Hawaii.
Notice the feeling you experience in your chest or solar plexus as you do this. Even if it’s very faint — notice it. As you continue to focus on hugging what you love, you will start to experience that feeling getting stronger.
Do this little exercise (you can see, it takes no physical effort, and hardly any time at all), regularly. Every time you intentionally choose to put your focus on hugging something or someone you love, you are taking control of what chemicals your brain and body are producing — which determines what you will be feeling.
I’ve been using this technique for around seven years, now, and it has made all the difference to my life.
I used to feel hopeless and helpless, being buffeted about by experiences and unable to get out of the negative emotional states. I now feel happy most of the time, and when I do get triggered, it’s not as intense, and doesn’t last as long.
Tips and Troubleshooting
Catch it Early!
The earlier you choose to change your focus, the easier it will be. The longer you allow yourself to feel bad, the higher the level of stress chemicals in your system — and, bearing in mind stress chemicals are strong because they’re part of our survival state — the higher the level of stress chemicals, the harder it will be to change your focus in the moment. So, as soon as you notice you’re feeling bad, immediately imagine hugging something or someone you love — you don’t even need to close your eyes to do it.
Practice When You’re NOT Triggered
Just like a fire-drill, this exercise will be most effective if you practice it when you’re feeling good. While you’re feeling good, the prefrontal cortex of your brain is “online” — which means you have full access to your cognitive thinking. And that means you’re able to think clearly enough to make the decision to practice this exercise intentionally. When the “fire” happens, you will be in emergency mode, on automatic. Practicing the “in-case-of-emergency” procedure when there’s no fire will help you to remember what to do when you do find yourself faced with a fire.
In the same way, practicing hugging something or someone you love, when you’re not feeling bad, will help you to get into the habit of it — and you are more likely to remember to do it when you do start to feel bad.
Before you go to sleep tonight, choose your emotional state by imagining hugging someone or something you love — and then, set the intention to do the same when you first become aware you’re awake in the morning. Doing this will “pre-pave” both your sleep and the start to your day, putting your brain and body in a positive chemical (emotional) state from the beginning.
Again, the earlier you choose to do this exercise, the easier it will be.
The two keys to success with this technique are:
1. Practicing the technique when you’re not feeling bad (fire-drill), so that it becomes a habit.
2. Catching it early — putting the fire out while it’s still just a little flame, rather than waiting until the building is on fire. Think of this technique as a little fire-extinguisher. It won’t be strong enough to put out an entire building on fire. But it can put out a stove-top fire or the flames in a waste-paper basket. So, don’t wait for the fire to spread before you use it.
You can’t always choose what happens to you, or in the world around you, but you can always choose where you put your focus.
Training Your Brain and Body to Feel Good On-Demand — Regardless of What’s Going On in Your Life
Emotional Fitness Training from Your Couch
Watch this FREE Video Series, and follow along, doing the exercises, to train your brain and body to feel good, more of the time!
There’s no need to sign up for anything, and no-one even needs to know you’re doing it! You can watch all of the recordings of the sessions, on this page: