Do your feelings reflect your physical state? Insufficient sleep can make any of us feel drained, less motivated and even a little depressed. Too much stress in the absence of sufficient rest throughout the day can make you feel distracted and anxious. Medical conditions that can make you feel exhausted and depressed include diabetes, hypothyroidism, anemia, fibromyalgia, congestive heart failure, inflammatory arthritis, chronic pain, sleep disorders and atherosclerosis. Anemia, asthma attacks, cardiac arrhythmias and hypoglycemia can make you feel anxious and panicky.
Your energy and emotional state can be affected by your diet. I remember always feeling lethargic and sleepy after a dim sum lunch, and I usually feel bloated and unwell after eating fast food.
Chemicals in the form of prescription medications, alcohol, street drugs, coffee, energy drinks and cigarettes can mess with your emotions, simulating a spectrum of psychiatric disorders, including depression, mania, panic attacks and psychosis.
Your emotions may be influenced by your environment. The nature and quality of lighting, air quality, and noise can affect energy, mood, stress and anxiety. In seasonal affective disorder, individuals are clinically depressed during the dark days of the fall and winter.
Are your emotions a reflection of your thoughts?
Is your emotional reaction based on a mistaken impression, assumptions or habits of thought? We often make assumptions about the motivations behind the behaviour of others. If we expect and think the worst, we will perceive it. We can take offence when none is intended. We may feel insulted when another’s statement may have been neutral or even positive.
Negative expectations about a dreaded family gathering can be based on the past and the mutual assumptions family members hold when relating to one another. This often leads to self-fulfilling prophecies – we behave in ways that provoke old dysfunctional patterns of relating and reinforce old assumptions.
If I could give one gift to every family, it would be a board game in which everyone must play by a new set of rules, begin a new game, and look at one another with fresh and open eyes. In this game, no single player wins but everyone loses – their egos, their grudges, their resentments and their pain.
If only it were so easy to change our thoughts and challenge our old, often unconscious assumptions about ourselves and others. Our emotional states can influence our thoughts. When depressed, we don’t see options as easily and we tend to view others, ourselves, the world and the future in a negative way. When anxious, we think about what could go wrong and expect it to happen. When angry, we just don’t think so clearly.
Is your emotional state a reflection of the relationships in your life?
Conflict in your important relationships is a major barrier to happiness. Success in all other areas in life is insufficient if you don’t feel valued, respected and loved by those who know you best. In all of your relationships, you need to listen and you need to be heard. We must attend to one another mindfully.
Unhappiness can arise from your relationship with your own life. You must find meaning in what you do each day. Your actions – what you say and what you do – must be in alignment with what you value and believe in. If you live with integrity, you respect others and you respect yourself. And by living your life in this way, mindfully and deliberately, you will enjoy the energy and enthusiasm to seize each day.
Mindful meditation can be the means to gain emotional awareness and with careful reflection, insight. With the perspective of such insight, you may live more mindfully, attend to your bodies, your environment, your thoughts and your relationships.
The mastery of your emotions can be the journey of a lifetime. It begins with mindful awareness. Feel your breath.
Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician at PrimeCare Medical. His Healthwise column appears regularly in this paper and his internet radio show, Positive Potential Medicine can be heard on pwrnradio.com.