Monthly Archives: June 2016

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What are you afraid of? Meet Fear.

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Fear is an incredibly useful tool, until it isn’t. Fear can keep you from taking foolish risks that would lead to severe death and injury. It protects you from danger. Fear floods your system with adrenaline to fight or flee. But sometimes fear can prevent you from doing what is necessary, or presents itself when you are not in danger. When that happens, the adrenaline flooding your system can interfere with what you want and need to do. So it’s a useful feeling, right up until it isn’t.

Fear sneaks into our lives under the guise of: nervousness, anxiety, uneasiness, apprehension, worry, distress, dread, alarm, shock, terror, and panic.

What am I afraid of? Comment your current fears and I’ll share mine with you.


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Today we meet sorrow.

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Considered by some to be the opposite of happiness, sorrow encompasses a wide range of feelings that are considered undesirable. Many people spend a great deal of time, effort, and mood altering chemicals avoiding this feeling. But sorrow is a necessary part of human existence. Much of it comes directly from the very best parts of our lives; we grieve when love and happiness are removed from our lives. The death of a loved one, the move of a friend, the loss of trust. Sorrow serves a vital purpose that helps us.

Sorrow goes by other names, some more intense than others, including: sadness, depression, despair, unhappy, grief, misery, disappointment, dismay, displeasure, embarrassment, humiliation, and insecurity.

When was the last time you felt sorrow? Share with us in the comments.


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Awesome Buts (Or this complement will self-destruct in 5 seconds.)

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Dude, that’s so cool that you climbed up there- let me get a picture. You are so awesome!

But, holy crap how did you manage to get your shirt so dirty???

See what I did there? Bet you’ve done it, or had it done to you. I just went and let my but get in the way of making someone feel good.

If you think about that from the physiological standpoint, what I did was even more cruel than it sounds.

A simplified explanation is that by giving some words of encouragement and approval his brain kicked up the levels of Dopamine, Oxytocin and Serotonin, making him feel good about himself, loved and successful. His reward system kicked in telling him everything is great. Shortly after, I knocked him down a few pegs causing those neurochemical levels to drop, inducing feelings of rejection and sadness, and since they were at a heightened state due to my previous statement, the difference felt is more drastic than if I’d not given the compliment at all. Not cool!

Flip your buts!

This isn’t my original idea, I first learned in from a leadership training session taught byKirk Weisler.  His suggestion is that if you’ve got a criticism to say, and you’ve got something positive as well, always give the negative first.

“Devin, your shirt’s really messy and you should take better care of it, but that’s a really awesome spot you climbed up to so let’s get a picture to remember it.”

Simple to do, and why wouldn’t you want to leave a person feeling good about themselves?  This isn’t just for with your kids or loved ones either.  At work we can change:

“Bob, you’ve done a great job with sales this quarter. You’ve blown away your overall target, but we need you to get more enterprise customers.”

to:

“Bob, focusing on getting more enterprise customers next quarter needs to be your priority, but I wanted to congratulate you on the awesome job you beating your overall sales target last quarter.”

Which is going to leave Bob feeling more motivated to go out and help the company with its goals?  The first scenario where we basically told him you did great but it’s not good enough, or the second where we gave him direction on where to focus his energy and then told him how how great he’s doing?

Follow This One Weird Trick to Make Your Buts Awesome

(Sorry, I just had to throw the click bait title in there, I couldn’t stop myself.)

I think Kirk’s advice is great, and I’ve tried to use it when I can.  Recently I’ve had more time to spend with my kids while Kim is out building support for our WeFeel Kickstarter campaign, and I’ve caught myself both remembering and forgetting to flip my buts.  And me being me, I got to thinking about how I could do even better.

Here’s what I’ve come up with. Whenever I feel the need to add a but to a statement, I want to try to figure out how to turn that into a learning opportunity.  Instead of “you did great, but here’s where you failed” or even the better form “here’s what you could of done better, but I’m proud of you” I think we have an opportunity for a real conversation.

Something along the lines of

“Hey let’s talk about <topic>. Here are some things you may not have considered that I think could help out…  What are some of the things you learned? If you were to do it again what would you change?   Cool, I think you’ve done an awesome job so far and it’s great that you are thinking about how you can do even better. I can’t wait to see how you do next time!”

See what I did there? I got rid of the buts. And despite Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s preferences, sometimes no buts are the most awesome buts.


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Ewww… Disgust

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Ewwwww…. Disgust. I have to admit that is not a pleasant emotion. But it’s not supposed to be. Disgust keeps us from doing things that are detrimental to ourselves – like eating rotten meat or accepting disease spreading behavior. Beware disgust’s stronger alias, contempt, it can be a relationship killer.

Disgust also includes boredom, distaste, revulsion, repugnance, aversion, contempt, nausea, and abhorrence.

Tracking how you are feeling, even when disgusted, helps improve emotional awareness. WeFeel is a great way to track emotion, journal and share.

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Introducing Joy

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Today we meet Joy, the feeling that most people want to feel. Oooo, it feels so good! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel joy because it is a good feeling. But what happens when you want to feel Joy to the exclusion of all the other feelings? Then there can be a problem because that can lead to a one-dimensional, unsatisfactory life. Or, it might mean you are ignoring every other feeling and only letting Joy speak to you.

Joy
Joy’s common aliases include:

  • contentment
  • satisfaction
  • optimism
  • cheerfulness
  • ecstasy
  • hope
  • bliss
  • euphoria
  • joviality
  • enthusiasm
  • delight
  • excitement
  • happiness
  • exhilaration.

Find out more about how tracking emotion, specifically joy, affected one of WeFeels CxOs in “Make Happy Little Cognitve Dissonance


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Make Happy Little Cognitive Dissonance

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How are you? Are you happy?

Like, right now, at this moment are you blissful? Do you currently feel that rush of neurochemicals permeating your brain causing a sense of Joy? What I’m saying here is, do you presently possess a combination of elevated levels of Endocannabinoids, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin and Endorphins that is unique to your brain chemistry resulting in a sense of pleasure and enjoyment?

Cause you are supposed to be happy right now. In fact you are supposed to be happy all the damn time. I know this because I was taught from a young age that our purpose in life is to be happy.  The religion of my youth says “Men are, that they might have joy.” My country was founded on the principle that I have a basic right to pursue happiness.  Various forms of media have pummeled me with information on how to be happy, if only I just…….

{insert ‘x’ here} to be happy.

x = {Serve Others, Find Love, Give Love, Live with Purpose, Find God, Loose God, Take Drugs, Stop Taking Drugs, Be a Vegan, Eat like a Caveman, Exercise, Eat Chocolate, Eat More Chocolate, seriously all you need to do is have some yummy chocolate }

Something must be wrong with me!

Because I’m not happy all the damn time. I know this because for the majority of the past year I’ve been using WeFeel to track my emotions.  Turns out, generally, I’m content at most; and that revelation was just depressing. Depressing to the point that sometimes I just stop using WeFeel to track how I feel because I don’t want the reminder that I’m failing at my purpose in life.  I created the service to help myself and others understand emotion and what I found so far was that I must be doing life wrong.

(mixed memes are awesome)

What if we were wrong?

This idea that we are supposed to be happy didn’t originate with some genetic memory I’ve had since birth.  It was taught.  In much of western culture we are actually indoctrinated from a young age that our default state of existence should be one that is chemically induced by receptors in our brain. And so we obsess about finding “true” happiness (whatever that means…is there a fake happiness?), and stress about the times when we aren’t.  We actually induce a state of anxiety (also caused by brain chemistry) worrying about why we aren’t in a different chemical state.  How weird is that?

20 something years of dissonance

In the early 90s I had the chance to live in Taiwan for a couple years.  Talk about culture shock. I was there to spread the word that western religion brings happiness. And I kept running into all these happy Buddhists. A key tenet of many of the forms of Buddhism is that life is suffering, life is pain.  The exact opposite of what I was taught, that life is about being happy.  Yet there they were, all these miserably happy people. What gives?

Sokath, his eyes open!

Last week I wrote about Bo Burnham’s new special “Make Happy” It wasn’t a happy post.  You are probably thinking “Yeah, but this one is even worse.  Now you are telling us that we aren’t even supposed to be happy.”  But I’m really not trying to bring you down here.  I just want you to stop for a moment, and think about what you think about being happy.

Think about the fact that there are so many things that can make us happy, but there are also so many things that make us feel our other emotions. Why did someone, at some point, come up with the idea that out of all the emotions we can feel, we should pick “happy” as our default state? Could they possibly have been influenced by the fact that when we are happy, dopamine, the “reward molecule”, is released? It’s a cycle that makes us want to be happy.  Being happy feels good!

And here is the epiphany I’ve found in pondering the essence of “Make Happy”:

We are happy when our brain is flooded with certain chemicals. Our base state of existence therefore cannot be happy; because if it were, you wouldn’t have to add neurochemicals to get there!

I’ve been wrong my whole life about happiness.  I’ve been trying to pursue being happy all the time when in reality that doesn’t even make sense.  From a purely chemical standpoint if you had the same levels of neurochemicals that induce a state of euphoria all the time you’d become immune to the feeling and would then need more of those chemicals to feel joy.  Just ask an opioid addict how well that works.

Stop obsessing about happiness, and you just might end up happier.

So we’ve established that a constant state of happiness is illogical.  By letting go of that pursuit we can stop the stress and anxiety of when we don’t live up to our expectations.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t do things that make us happy. I’m saying that it’s ok to just be who we are when we are not happy.

In doing so, we can give ourselves the chance to embrace the whole experience of life. It turns out that by creating a service to understand emotion, I’ve accidentally created a way to see through some of my own incorrect beliefs about what I’m supposed to be doing here on earth.  I’ve become more able to relish the fact that sometimes I’m afraid, or sad, or just down-right angry.  I don’t have to have a need to try to find a way to turn those emotions into some level of joy.

And that makes me happy.


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Meet Anger

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Commonly vilified as a “bad” emotion, anger can actually be a good thing. Anger keeps us from sitting on the sidelines when we see something wrong, it gives us the energy and will to fight for what we believe in. That doesn’t mean it’s always a good thing either, it really depends on what you DO with Anger.

AngerAnger is also know as (AKA)

  • irritability
  • annoyance
  • aggravation
  • bitterness
  • agitation
  • exasperation
  • frustration
  • rage
  • fury
  • wrath
  • resentment
  • hatred

You can use WeFeel to track your anger. Use the filters and notes to find out if there are common triggers for your anger. Once you know more about your own anger, you get to choose what to do with it. We hope you make wise choices.


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Developing Emotional Awareness

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Being aware of your emotions is at the core of WeFeel. There are many reasons for this and one of them is the development of emotional awareness. Basically, you have to know what you are feeling to be able to remain in control. Otherwise your emotions remain hidden from view and control.

I discovered a good resource for emotional development. This site, founded by parents after their daughter’s suicide, hopes to “empower you with the knowledge and support you need to take charge of your life and make healthy choices.” One of the ways they do this is through a toolkit to develop emotional awareness to recognize and harness the power of your emotions.

“Emotions are the glue that gives meaning to life and connects you to other people. They are the foundation of your ability to understand yourself and relate to others. When you are aware and in control of your emotions, you can think clearly and creatively; manage stress and challenges; communicate well with others; and display trust, empathy, and confidence. But lose control of your emotions, and you’ll spin into confusion, isolation, and negativity.”

If you’d like to read more about developing emotional awareness (you could use the WeFeel app to help you along!) then find out more


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5 Steps of Emotion Coaching

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When my daughter was in kindergarten they had a series of special lessons on feelings. At the end of these lessons she brought home a chart that had her picture on a craft stick and a bunch of faces with different expressions around it. She could put her face on the stick behind any of the faces to show how she was feeling.

I had a chance later that week to talk to the specialist that taught those classes. She told me that being able to identify our feelings from the time we are small really helps kids develop more empathy and emotional control. We put the chart up on our fridge and my daughter used the chart occasionally to tell me how she felt. She moved her face from one emotion to another, kind of like she was trying them on. And as she tried on these emotions she got better at recognizing how she felt.

One day this article on the Five Steps of Emotion Coaching was recommended to me. As I read through the 5 steps I realized that the WeFeel app can help parents become emotional coaches for their kids, especially with the first 4 steps.

1. Be aware of emotions.
When the app asks you, or your child, how you feel throughout the day it gives you the opportunity to stop and take a moment to reflect on what you are feeling.

2. Connect with your child.
As your child adds entries you’ll be able to see what they are feeling in easy to understand charts that you can share with them. The charts give you a way to start a conversation.

3. Listen to your child.
Taking the time to track your own emotions and encouraging your child to track theirs shows them that it is important to you and gives you a way to listen to them even if they don’t have the words to share them with you.

4. Name emotions.
Not every child has a way to put words to what they are feeling, but that doesn’t mean they can’t identify them. Simple graphics combined with intensity allow anyone to identify their feelings even without a name to give it. And, all of the graphics are supported with the various synonyms that describe the emotions represented so that you can help your child (or yourself) begin to give your emotions names.

If you are interested in learning more about being an emotional coach for your child, I encourage you to read the article. Even though the article is recommended for 3 to 5 years old I have found it’s advice helpful for my older children as well.


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The Importance of Naming Your Emotions

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A recent article it the New York Times by Tony Schwartz talks about the importance of naming your emotions.

One of my favorite parts of the article says:

So what’s the value of getting people to express what they’re actually feeling, rather than keeping things relentlessly light and bland? The answer is that naming our emotions tends to diffuse their charge and lessen the burden they create. The psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.””

Naming your emotions can defuse them; take away the power from them. When our emotions lose the ability to take away our power that makes us more powerful and effective in our lives. The article talks about being more productive in our jobs, but I have found that naming and acknowledging my emotions makes me more effective in every aspect of my life. One of our goals at WeFeel is to give everyone a way to acknowledge, track and analyze their feelings. More than just a journal that records your feelings, you will have the opportunity to see your feelings over time and in the places you are. You will have a set of tools at your fingertips that will help you name it. And like Dan Siegel in the article says, “name it to tame it.”

read the full article on the New York Times


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