Earlier last year I was watching an episode of Seventh Heaven, and an interesting piece of advice has stuck with me since. The dad, Eric, was telling one of his many kids that they are able to choose how they feel. I thought that was an interesting concept, and decided to challenge myself to see how well this idea worked outside of TV life.
Last year, I was feeling depressed a lot. I just had a hard time getting out of the constant sadness and boredom that seemed to make up my life. So when this idea presented itself to me, I clung on to it like a lifeline. I wasn’t really sure why I was feeling this way, so I didn’t know what to do about it. When my husband would ask me what was wrong, all I knew was I didn’t know. We were doing great, work was fine, and I had no other major family issues. I wasn’t sad every day, but I would start feeling gloomy for a day or two a week, and that is not like me.
My first attempt to choose my feelings felt weird. I wanted to be happy, so I told myself “You are happy starting now.” Yeah, I felt dumb, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. I didn’t think about it much more after, until one day I noticed I had been much happier over that time. The main reason was that when I started to feel down, I would stop myself and do something to get my mind off those dark thoughts. Most of that time was spent reading a book, or watching a lot of funny movies. I had started “faking it” thinking that if I acted happy, eventually I would just be happy.
Since my little experiment was working, I decided to try to apply my new trick to my relationship with my husband and me. We don’t fight very often, and when we do, it tends to be over stupid things. I didn’t press my ideas on him about this, but figured that changing my reactions would curve most of the arguments. When he would do something to annoy me, like leave food wrappers and soda cans out instead of throwing them away, I would either just clean it up myself or tell him why that annoyed me. I wouldn’t let myself get angry or start saying whatever came to my mind. I would just take a second and tell myself to choose how to react. He told me a few months ago that I had seemed more relaxed and carefree!
I am not perfect at doing this. At times, it is very hard to take that second or two and force my brain to override my feelings. Sometimes it doesn’t work, or maybe I’m just not trying hard enough. The main point is that I have decided to take control of my emotional life. I want to be a happy person, one that people want to be around. I try to smile at everyone, even strangers. I do have to admit though, I am happier. I have had more fun in the past six months that the year before.
Try choosing your emotions. Worse thing that can happen is it doesn’t work. Best thing is, it will.