Recently, I was preparing to deliver a speech and found myself in a funk. I was experiencing an unusual amount of distraction and self-doubt. Fortunately, I had about four hours before I was to go on stage. So, I decided to call my wife, Gail.
She instantly knew I wasn’t in a good place. (This is one of the many benefits of long-term marriage. My wife can read me like a book.) After listening to me whine for a few minutes she said, “Okay, I want you to hang up and go for a run. Call me when you are done.”
I was tempted to blow her off, but I knew in my heart that she was right. I needed a big shift in my emotional state. It wasn’t going to just happen. I needed to do something.
When I called her an hour later, everything had changed. My emotional state had shifted—dramatically. I was focused, alert, and upbeat. I had a can-do attitude.
This was a good reminder of something we had learned years ago from Tony Robbins:
Emotion is created by motion.
If you want to change your emotional state, often all that is necessary is for you to change your physiology. I have experienced this first-hand again and again.
Don’t believe me? Try this:
- Slouch in your chair
- Round your shoulders
- Take shallow breaths
- Close your eyes
- Frown and then sigh
If you are like me, almost immediately you will start feeling down—maybe even a little discouraged. As it turns out, discouragement and sadness have specific physical manifestations.
But so does joy and confidence.
This is why you can look at someone and say, “You look like you are having a difficult day.” Or conversely, “Wow. You look like you are on top of the world!”
Over the years, I have learned (and Gail periodically reminds me) that I can change my emotional state for the better by focusing on my physiology rather than my emotions. So can you. Try these five steps:
- Put on some upbeat music. This can dramatically alter your mood, because of the memories you associate with certain tunes. Gail recently created a playlist of Music for an Outstanding Day, which I borrowed. It is awesome!
- Stand up and stretch. Try to reach the ceiling. Get on your tippy-toes. If you are brave—and no one else is around—jump up and down for 60 seconds. Shake it out. Rotate your neck. Look up.
- Take several deep breaths. Oxygenating the blood makes you more alert and awake. Close your eyes and concentrate on breathing. Draw the air deep into your diaphragm (or gut). This is a great way to forget about what has you down or afraid.
- Get your body in motion. The more vigorous you can move the better. Go for a run, a bicycle ride, or simply a walk—preferably outdoors. This stimulates your blood flow and gets oxygen to to your whole body. If you do it long enough, your brain will release endorphins that elevate your mood.
- Focus on the positive. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he“ (Proverbs 23:7). Think strong, positive thoughts. Affirm what you know to be true. Give thanks for what you have rather than what you don’t have. Shift your internal narration to what you get to do rather than what you have to do.
I am now going through this process a couple of times a day, usually first thing in the morning, then again after lunch. It has given me the energy and emotional boost I need to be productive and stay productive.