Your emotions are trying to tell you something.
2014 was a fucking epic year for me. Jaunty had its busiest year so far. I pushed my limits physically and emotionally. I’ve been in my best shape ever. I read more, and took a few courses to expand my mind. But there were plenty of challenges too. Like when I ended my relationship because it wasn’t the right fit.
Looking back on this year, I remember so many intense emotions. I felt a lot of sadness and anxiety when I was deciding whether to break up with my girlfriend. Subconsciously, my brain saw the end of the relationship as a loss of resources, like being loved, or even being able to create a family. Kind of wild, right?
The way I see it, emotions can be broken into two groups. First there’s the physical world. Our emotions let us know immediately when there’s a physical threat. If you see a snake, you experience fear which tells your body to get the hell away. We don’t think about it. Our brains are instantly flooded with adrenaline. This is obviously really important for our survival. We also feel positive emotions when we eat well, exercise or think we’re doing something good for our physical well-being. That’s why we feel better about ourselves when we pick a healthy snack. Yum, bananas…
The second group of emotions is in the social world: relationships with yourself and others. These emotions surface when we do something we think will make people like us more…or less. Doesn’t it feel good being desired and invited to stuff? Get this–there’s a biological reason for this too. Having a great social life feels good in part because historically this meant having a higher chance of survival. For example, a well-liked member of the tribe had a bigger safety net, since the community would gladly help them out with food and other resources if they don’t have enough.
Think back to a time you felt a negative emotion after a social interaction didn’t go the way you wanted. Maybe you felt embarrassed, uncomfortable, or frustrated. Worse still, maybe the other person noticed things didn’t go so well, or even called you out on it. Ouch. Our emotions in these situations are saying, “Maybe these people won’t accept me.”*
During our old hunter/gatherer days, we lived in small communities where being disliked could get you ostracized by the group. Yikes! Now we live in cities where you can dance on a table in a bar and then grab a drink across the street where no one will even know. Remember, no social mess-up can destroy your happiness forever.
When you improve your social skills, it’s easier to enhance your social circles, which creates positive emotions. Most of our emotions are socially related. (I’m guessing you don’t bump into many snakes in your day-to-day life.) We can greatly reduce negative emotions and worries about not being accepted, by getting more comfortable in all social situations. Get those social skills as sharp as you can, because when you find yourself in a new city, or fresh out of a romantic relationship, you’ll have the skills to quickly flip those emotions around!
This New Year, become more aware of your emotions and understand what they’re telling you. We tend to let emotions get the better of us when they don’t need to. Making sense of our negative emotions can make it easier to get back to feeling good again.