Do you ever have those days where someone does something to you or makes you mad or hurts your feelings and it seems to last all day? We’ve all been there. And it’s not fun. But it doesn’t have to affect us the way it does. See, biochemically speaking, there is absolutely no reason for those negative emotions to wreck our days.
That’s because an emotional response only lasts about 90 seconds in the body. Yes that’s right, 2 minutes and it’s over. Well, only if we allow it to be over.
Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor describes this in her book My Stroke of Insight. She says that the biochemical response that ARE our emotions lasts about 90 seconds. After that, the body essentially dissipates the chemicals released and the automatic response ends.
It’s actually us, or our conscious brains, that dwells on the event or experiences and reactivates the emotions (like the stress response). We often consciously replay that experience over and over again, retriggering the actual emotion. We allow ourselves to remain in an emotional state far longer than those 90 seconds.
Instead of using our conscious brains to manage our emotional brains and working to prevent our stress, we perpetuate it. Many people, including myself at one time, lack the self-awareness to realize what they are doing to themselves. They are unable to realize the effect their minds are having on their bodies.
This is another reason why mindfulness and meditation are so impactful. These practices can create a greater sense of self-awareness so that we can stop reactivating negative emotions in the body.
Managing Negative Emotions
The stress response is going to occur because of a wide array of factors. It can be an angry boss yelling at you, a child not listening, a loved one hurting you, or an unexpected change in your daily life. Don’t perpetuate the change in your state by dwelling on it with your thoughts. Don’t make the heat of the moment last longer than it should! Your body wants to be done with it in about 2 minutes – make sure your mind follows suit.
There are many ways to stop the stress response and negative emotions from perpetuating, once you have become better aware of it:
Stand tall and breathe
Go for a walk out in nature, or a jog
Exercise vigorously (change your physical state because it is physically changing via stress response… or go expend that stress energy!)
Talk to someone, openly and deeply
Hug a loved one
The next time you face a stressful situation or a negative emotional experience – use the 90 second rule: Recognize it, deal with it, let the 90 seconds pass, and then do something else to change your body and your mind!
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