We Are Emotional Creatures
Did you know that your emotional right brain trumps your logical left brain when making decisions in life?
At the age of two, the brain’s right side, as it develops becomes more active and dominant over the left brain which is home to language, logic and reason. We think that we are reasonable when it comes to making important decisions, but apparently it’s all but an illusion.
When our right brain makes an emotional decision, our left brain tricks us and comes up with a logical reason to justify our decision. This process is called “post-rationalization.” In fact, this process has been scientifically proven by a neuropsychologist named Roger Sperry. In his experiment he triggered the command to walk in a subject’s right brain (emotion), in a way that the left (logic) brain was unaware. Interestingly, the subjects actually got up and started to walk. Yet when asked why they decided to walk, they came up with random reasons such as, wanting to stretch or to get a drink of water. The amazing part was that these subjects were not lying. They were entirely honest, because they were tricked and believed the reasoning provided by their left (logic) brains!
Emotions Fuel Our Decisions
Understanding the connection between our emotions and decisions is important. We make decisions every single day and it’s the very act of deciding that leads to our actions and results. I have shared with our readers before how my decision to relocate from New Zealand to Singapore have completely changed my life. I experienced new things, gradually changed my values in life, gained and lost priceless things and ultimately, became a different person. One single decision have changed my life upside down.
Decisions have the power to alter the course of our lives. But it’s not just the big decisions but also the small ones. Deciding to smile when you are upset, deciding to be grateful, deciding to wake up early or even deciding to drink more water. They are all trivial things but just like the ripples in a pond when you throw a tiny pebble, every single decision we make, big or small, will have a consequence in our lives.
If we sum up the information above, it can be concluded that;
- We are innately unreasonable beings because our emotional right brain trumps over our logical left brain.
- More often than not, we make decisions based off our emotions.
- Decisions produce actions, and our actions is what shapes our future.
This means that we are victims of our own emotions. Although we know and understand that our decisions define our course of life, it’s scientifically proven that we make emotional decisions over logic. This is bad news for anyone that wants to live a life by design and be successful in all facets of life. Surely you wouldn’t want your emotions to dictate how your life turns out. Then how can we overcome this? It is impossible to live a life entirely detached from one’s emotions, but it can be done temporarily.
Have Your Emotions In Check
Self-observation techniques is one of the best methods to keep your sanity and have your emotions in check. By observing yourself, you can create distance from an event to better assess your emotions and thoughts in a non-judgmental way.
1. Keep A Diary
One of the most effective ways of practising self-observation is to keep a diary. I am an avid fan of writing journals and I do it quite systematically. Every morning, I write a list of all the things that I am grateful for. Writing a gratitude list makes me happy for all the things that I have and it attracts more of the things that I am grateful for. Throughout the day I write about the day ahead, my feelings towards a certain event or a person, a conversation log, problems that I’m facing and events that a noteworthy. Journaling is known to have the following benefits:
- Clarify thoughts and emotions
- Understand about yourself on a deeper level
- Reduce stress
- Solve problems more efficiently
- Raise awareness of your situation and time
Update 2017: I started to incorporate and practise stoicism. Read about the stoic principles and how I implement them in my everyday life.
I practice deep breathing meditation. Whenever I take a ride on public transportation or at any given down time, I do the following steps:
- Stand or sit upright with the spine straight as possible
- Take moments to “simply be” and notice whatever I am experiencing in that moment – sounds, thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc.
- Bring focus to breathing. 6 seconds of deep diaphragmatic breathing through the nose, hold for 2 and exhale through the mouth for 6 seconds, and repeat.
- Whenever the mind wanders away from the breath, gently refocus on breathing.
This works for me because it’s simple and versatile. But there’s many other forms of meditation out there and it’s best to choose what works for you. Meditation in general has the benefits of:
- Reversing anxiety
- Improved concentration levels and observational skills
- Reduced stress
- Increased creativity and problem solving skills
- Promote tissue regeneration and repair
- Increased oxygen to vital organs: brain, heart and eye
3. Expose Yourself To Good Stress
Too much stress can make you sick and shut down your brain. As discussed in my previous article “Stress Kills – Learn to adapt not just cope with it”, we are exposed to stress so much that it has become a normal part of life. But not all stress is bad for you. Moderate amounts of “Good Stress” can actually help your brain’s neural pathway to grow. Welsh researcher, David Snowden found that subjects who held a university degree and continued to learn and cultivate new interests throughout their lives were actively encouraging levels of good stress.
Then how can we expose ourselves to good stress? The answer is simple, get out of your comfort zones. It was found that physiologically, “Good Stress” occurs when we engage in something new and challenging. Good stress was found to be beneficial in the following ways:
- Stimulate the brain
- Improve the brain’s overall function and health
- Promote longevity
- Improve concentration levels and clarity
Live A Life By Design
We all want to be, live and have something better. Before you think about how to change the world around you, start by changing yourself and becoming a slave to good habits. Not everyone turns out to be successful and it’s not because of knowledge. There is never a lack of knowledge; we all know what to do and what not do. Taking action is all the difference it makes in becoming the person and living the life that you want. Now that you understand our innate flaws of being emotional creatures, do at least one of the actions outlined above to have your emotions in check. Be in control over emotions and you will be in control over your life.