The Happiness Connection  

Surfing your emotions

I am a clinically depressed happiness maven.

From this statement you can probably tell that emotions play a big part in my life. This does not make me unique. Emotions play a big part in your life too, although you may not be aware just how much.

How you feel is frequently instinctive. The emotions come without conscious choice.

Although it may seem like emotions are random, they are not. They are part of your brain’s strategy to ensure your survival.

When data is received by your brain, it is given meaning. Its interpretation is based on your values, past experiences, beliefs, intentions, and a myriad of other factors.

If your brain believes you are in danger, it will release chemicals that among other things, heighten your senses, increase your focus, and help you accurately assess your abilities and skills. These physical changes are all designed to help you either out-run, or out-muscle your attacker.

In contrast, if the signals your brain receives are interpreted as non-threatening, it will help you survive in a very different way. Your brain provides you with positive emotions, increased creativity, a more tolerant attitude, greater likability, and a belief that you are more skilful than you really are.

Humans are stronger together, so social connection was vital for survival in more primitive times. Like-ability and tolerance are traits that make it easier to bond with others and creativity helps with invention and problem solving.

If you are wondering why times of danger encourage an accurate assessment of your skills and non-threatening ones invite an over-estimation of them, it won’t surprise you to discover that the reason revolves around survival.

When you are in the fight-or-flight response, it is important that you know exactly what you are capable of. Having an inflated idea of what you can do is not helpful if you want to live to see another day.

On the other hand, thinking you are good at something, regardless of whether you are, encourages practice and perseverance. It is human nature to spend time doing things you are already reasonably competent at and to avoid activities you struggle with.

Which children spend their time playing basketball in their breaks at school? The ones who are already on the team. The ones who would really benefit from practising are doing something they believe is more suited to their natural talents.

Our society and living conditions have evolved dramatically in the western world, but your brain hasn’t. If your brain hears an unexpected sound or sees a snake-shaped twig lying on the ground, even if you are in your own home, it will respond the same way it would if you were a nomad in the Serengeti.

I was getting an item out of our storage room recently and caught sight of something in my peripheral vision. I jumped, my muscles tensed, and my heart began to pound.

It only took a moment to identify the unknown object as an empty box, but the split second before that was all my brain needed to prepare me for fight, or flight.

Instinctive emotion is beyond your control, but what you do next isn’t.

In the case of the mystery cardboard, I shook my head and took a deep breath before continuing with my errand. The fright was over and quickly forgotten.

Not all negative reactions are so easy to let go of. If you are under pressure at work, or someone shouts at you, you may find yourself caught in undesirable feelings for longer than is good for you.

Negative emotions are designed to be short-lived. They are meant to help you survive and then be released. The pressure of today’s world makes that increasingly difficult for some people to do.

Living in a constant state of stress is harmful to your heath. You can help yourself by becoming more conscious of your emotions and choosing to work towards emotional mastery. This is the process of detaching from the feelings you don’t want and re-establishing a sense of peace.

Emotional mastery is a four-step process.


When those instinctive emotions appear, take time to identify them. Spend a few minutes on this step and be as specific as possible. Do not judge your feelings, just name them.


There is a tendency to want to deny feelings that you don’t deem as honourable. There is no such thing as a bad emotion. They are what they are. Feeling jealous, or envious does not make you a bad person.

Sit with the emotion you identified without judgment, denial, or excuses. Simply accept that it exists.


There is always more than one way to translate the same data. Just because your brain interpreted the situation in a certain way doesn’t mean it is the only or best interpretation, or that it even makes sense.

Step back and look at the situation as an observer rather than as a participant. How else could you interpret the information? Is the emotion you are feeling, serving you? Is it helping you create peace and tranquility?

Release or Embrace

This is the moment of empowerment. Do you want to embrace the initial feeling, or release it?

The latter option is best if you want a life of peace and tranquility rather than stress and dissatisfaction.

When I release feelings, I like to visualize them as helium balloons or balls. I let go of the strings holding the balloons and watch them float away, or I throw the balls with all my might and watch them disappear into the distance.

Close you eyes and take some deep breaths, imagining you are filling yourself with calm. If your negative emotions begin to resurface, repeat step four.

Like anything that is worth developing, mastering your emotions takes time and needs continued practice.

You can’t stop negative emotions from being present in your life, but you can choose how long they hang around for.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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