Has anyone ever told you to lighten up? Probably they meant that you were being too intense emotionally, or were taking a situation too seriously.
Being problem-focused breeds seriousness. The world—or maybe your life—has serious problems that should be taken seriously by serious people to find serious solutions. How can you laugh when a situation is so serious?
How does being serious feel? Typically, being serious generates destructive catabolic emotions such as anger, frustration, overwhelment, and even fear.
Take a moment to think about what all that seriousness is doing to your body.
When we’re focused on all the things that are “wrong” we actually get in the way of how our body functions by dipping into catabolic energy.
Catabolic emotions release the stress hormone cortisol, adrenaline, and other chemicals that literally can cannibalize our bodies. They break down our immune system, stress our hearts, and impact our muscles. Over time, this catabolic energy can cause everything from painful trigger points in our shoulders to inflammation to heart attacks. It can even impact our metabolism and other weight-related systems making it easier to gain and harder to release weight.
When we lighten up emotionally by allowing ourselves to relax, smile, laugh, and enjoy our life we are literally making it easier for our bodies to lighten up.
When we lighten up emotionally, we are allowing our body to work for us down to the cellular level. Choosing a more constructive anabolic reaction releases endorphins and body supporting hormones that help our bodies heal, rebuild, and flow with physical energy.
People often feel that their emotions are out of their control. They react how they react.
That’s not actually true. Our knee-jerk reactions are not the only way to respond to a situation. If they were then everybody would react the same way to ever situation, and clearly that’s not the case or we wouldn’t have any conflicts of disagreements.
Our reactions are truly one of the few things we have control over. We can’t control anybody or anything else, but we can control ourselves.
One way to choose your response rather than to just react is to pause and reframe your thoughts. This doesn’t mean you have to shift from being really angry about something to thinking everything is holly jolly. That’s not a mental shift that you’re likely going to be able to make in the heat of the moment.
Just being able to shift to a thought that eases your reaction a smidge has a huge impact on the chemical processes going on in your body. It’s like easing your foot off the gas pedal. Just lifting your foot a little bit slows the speed of the car.
Ironically, as I was starting to write this blog, I asked my husband’s opinion about my Wellness Tip of the Weekend, and didn’t like his response. It felt like criticism and my initial response was frustration, and maybe a little bit of anger.
Recognizing that this was a catabolic reaction, I took a moment to reframe my thoughts before continuing to write.
I know that David wasn’t being critical of me. He was coming from a place of wanting to help me provide the best—and clearest—information for my readers, which truly benefits everyone.
That made me feel a little more grudging, which was slight improvement from frustrated and feeling criticized. As I was writing this piece I was able to recognize that he might have had some really good advice or suggestions for making my writing stronger, and really I do want to be the best writer possible. So next time I’m in that position, I’m going to listen more carefully and not be so quick to dismiss his feedback. After all, I did ask his opinion.
It was probably more that I was feeling constrained by word-count and time, which made it harder for me to see a way to make my writing better. Next time, by being able to maintain my anabolic energy, I will have more creative juice to work from and might more easily see a solution.
Now I’m feeling much lighter and better able to move on to the rest of my day with my sense of humor intact. Allowing myself to feel better is a gift for not only my mind and body, but for the people around me, as well.
The next time you catch yourself having a catabolic reaction to something, what can you do to reframe your thoughts just enough to ease off that initial emotion? What difference does that make in your day?
Together we can do it!