Every morning, you intentionally pick out the clothes you are going to wear for the day. You probably factor several variables into your decision: What am I doing today? What is the weather like? Is this outfit comfortable? Do these jeans make my butt look fat? Will anyone really notice that tiny tear on the sleeve? Eventually, you pick an outfit and literally embody it for the day.
Most of us put a fair amount of time and energy into the way we look. However, I would posit that more important than what we wear on the outside is how we feel on the inside. Yet most of us rarely, if ever, intentionally choose our feelings. We just let them happen.
You may wake up feeling tired and irritated because waking up to an alarm is in fact, extremely irritating, and you stayed up much too late binging Bridgerton. You might feel momentarily relaxed in the shower. You would likely feel somewhat put-off by the super-green smoothie that seemed like such a good idea online, but in reality, is like drinking liquid grass. You could be simultaneously thrilled with your child’s ability to make her own breakfast while also nostalgic, remembering her younger self who still needed you to pour the milk. You might feel anxious about the coming school day, disappointed when a lesson flops, relieved when a struggling student finally gets it, dismayed at yet another requirement on your time and on and on.
We are constantly tossed hither and whither by our emotions like a rowboat in a stormy sea. Not a bad thing in many ways. Certainly, it would not be good to go through life not feeling things like a robot or your college boyfriend. But what if we could be more intentional about what we feel? What if we could choose our feelings like we choose our clothes? Or at least our accessories.
Choose an Emotion for the Day
Instead of just letting the circumstances of your day decide how you feel, try setting an intention for how you want to feel at the start of the day and then shape your day around your intention.
For example, if you want to feel calmer and more peaceful, there are many things you could do (and not do) to promote that feeling.
- You could find three times during the day to do a minute of calm breathing.
- You could choose to eat your lunch in a quiet environment without distraction.
- You could remind yourself to respond calmly to all the little irritations the day throws at you, and even try to anticipate some of them and plan how you could handle them in a calm way.
- You could end your day with a hot bath or a cup of tea and a good book.
This will work with any emotion – happiness, gratefulness, patience, positivity, acceptance, etc. The main thing is to do it with intention. Set your intention at the start of the day and plan ways to bring it into reality. You might consider setting reminders on your phone or putting up sticky notes to keep you on track.
This exercise is particularly powerful if you focus on the same intention for a week or even longer. By sticking with the same emotion, you will find new ways to bring it into your day. You’ll discover what works well and what doesn’t. You’ll also start to feel that feeling more without having to consciously think about it. It will just become part of who you are.
The process for increasing a chosen emotion is remarkably easy and does not need to take a whole lot of extra time.
- Choose a positive emotion you want to feel more often and more deeply.
- Brainstorm ways to intentionally bring more of that emotion into your day. Brainstorm on paper (or screen) not just in your head.
- Choose a few of your ideas that seem the most appealing and the most doable. Don’t make the things you choose too ambitious. For example, if you want to bring more gratitude into your life, deciding to write three thank-you notes to people you appreciate might be a bit much. However, jotting a quick note of gratitude to a colleague on a sticky note is much more doable.
- Do the things.
- At the end of the day, take a minute to reflect on what you did and how it made you feel. Did you feel your chosen emotion more? How did that impact your day as a whole?
- Rinse and repeat
Why You Should Definitely Try This
There are few reasons to give this a try.
First and most obviously, choosing to feel a positive emotion will make you feel good. You’ll likely have more positive experiences and interactions. This will probably result in you having a better day overall. If you have a better day, your students probably will too…and your spouse, kids, possibly even the dog. You can create so much better-dayness, just by doing things to make your own day better!
Second, the more positive feelings you have, the more likely you are to have more. You are training your brain to create positive thoughts that lead to positive feelings. Do it enough and those thoughts and feelings will start to come naturally. In fact, they will become a part of who you are and that is powerful!
Third, working on promoting a positive emotion gives you a feeling of control in a world where so much seems out of our control. You may not be able to control how your students behave (or at least not all the time), when the pandemic will be truly over, or what your mother-in-law thinks of your parenting skills, but you can control at least some of your feelings. All good things.
Give it a try. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling more positive, more in control of your emotions, and probably happier too!
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