We all experience stress, anxiety, frustration, and depression triggers. Though some of us may experience these unpleasant feelings more than others, it is ultimately how we handle the negative emotions that will make us happier overall. Use these simple tricks for dealing with stressors to brighten your overall mood no matter how stress-filled your day-to-day life may actually be. You will hopefully start to find that although you may deal with the same amount of triggers, by confronting them differently, it will feel as if they have lessened.

The Initial Trigger

Before you let your mind go crazy over the annoyance, frustration, anxiety, stress, or depression you feel after the trigger, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Then, draw your mind’s attention to any tightness in your body. Concentrate on these body parts and gradually let the tension go, bringing yourself back to a relaxed state.

Identify Your Negative Emotions

Are you feeling anger, embarrassment, or shame? No matter what the emotion, don’t judge yourself for having it. Instead, acknowledge it, the key is to become more aware of the specific emotion. Change the label of the emotion from the vague word “negative” to a very specific description word, such as fury.

Naming Your Stress

When scientists at UCLA’s Brain Mapping Center revealed photos of scared or angry faces to test subjects, neural activity in the fear centers of their brains ignited. However, when these participants were asked to describe the facial expressions in the pictures using only one word, the activity in their brains diminished in their fear centers and transferred to their prefrontal cortexes. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that reminds us that even in the midst of chaos, everything is okay. Therefore, naming your emotions, as described above, can help you recognize the emotion which will make you feel less overwhelmed by it. Practice this often when confronted with emotional triggers and eventually it will become a more natural response!

Take Note of Your Surroundings

Most of us don’t realize when we haven’t looked up from our computer screens or desks for multiple hours. Take time to swivel your chair and take note of your surroundings. Look out the window for a minute, take a 5-10 minute walk appreciating the sites outdoors, appreciate the flowers in the break room, or put down that cell phone on the commute home and enjoy watching the sunset. If you teach yourself to focus on these pleasurable experiences, you activate happiness-related neurons that will increase your pleasure-senses for other future good times to come!

To increase the receptivity of your pleasure-centers, use all your senses. Don’t just look at the flowers, smell them. Don’t just watch the sunset, roll down your window and feel the cool spring breeze. Sip a cup of lavender tea while you look out the window. The more fully you enjoy these moments, the easier it will be for your brain to solidify the sensory experience in your memory.


-Emily Freeman

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