For those of you who follow Nicole and I on our Cablevision television show Living Well (each Wednesday at 7pm, Cablevision channel 20) or follow us through our blogs or books you know that we are interested in psychology (we each have received a Psy.M. degree) and how to help people improve their lives. For those of you who are new to us, Nicole and I believe that what has become acceptable in society is very ineffective and disempowering-in other words the research shows that the majority of people in society exist in a chronic state of dissatisfaction, poor health, or unhappiness—they feel lost. We want you to have a higher quality of life. That requires change and that's where Nicole and I have spent the focus of our lives and our academic research.
There is a lot of popular myth about the subject of “positive thinking.” Positive thoughts and the ability to believe in yourself are definitely assets in our lives. We can also-if we become unafraid of them-use the so-called “negative feelings” to enhance our life as well. Our fears, emotions, and sensory input are processed in the subconscious mind. This mind can process massive amounts of input on a level that our conscious or “rational” mind simply cannot. Yet, in Western culture we are taught that the left, or rational mind, is the arbiter of good decision-making. Research has continually shown that this is not the case.
Recently there has been another study that shows that identifying and “owning” negative feelings is a powerful strategy to reduce the fear associated with them. This study compared four ways of handling these feelings using labeling, reframing, distraction, and exposure therapy. After a one-week timeframe and although the sense of fear was accounted for across all groups, the acting out of the fear was most reduced in the group that was able to use words to express their feelings. This means that if you can own your fear, you'll be less likely to act out a dysfunctional coping behavior to compensate for one of the following two states you may find yourself in as you experience the feeling. The 1st state is dealing with the feelings that are very uncomfortable and have been labeled unpleasant. We often feel more comfortable distracting ourselves from them. We must learn to “sit with” these feelings. Second, we need to establish some type of process so that we don't only “sit with” the feeling we fear, we use it to take a positive action that improves the quality of our life.
Chronic dissatisfaction and poor health are not our natural states of being. They are states of being that reflect both the influence of the society in which we live and our personal decision-making. You can live a happier and healthier life by making small shifts today, which compounded over time, will stack upon each other and create the life that you dream of. It’s not difficult, just different.