Making use of changes in your body to change emotion

Intense emotions are often accompanied by physical sensations, which can include changes in body temperature, heart rate, and breathing. A person may feel flushed, have difficulty paying attention, and become disorganized or fragmented. Since out-of-control emotions can lead to out-of-control actions, a person who doesn’t have a clear understanding of what controls emotions may simply feel out of control of his or her self.

Changing your physical experience of your emotion may work to reduce the intensity of an emotion. Some people are so tense, rigid, and shut down that they suffer from high blood pressure, headaches, or other physical problems. They walk around in threat mode, sort of speak, to the extent that they lose touch with what is going on around them.

One way of changing emotions involves acting or behaving in a way that is incompatible with the emotion itself. (Note, this skill works best when your emotion, such as anger, gets in your way and you have a desire to change it). For instance, if you are tense, closed, and rigid, you might want to try relaxing your face and unclenching your jaw. Unclench your fists and let your stomach release.  Try slowing down your breaths and inhaling deeply- count to 8 on the inhale and 10 on the exhale to slow yourself down. If you are talking, keep your face relaxed, open, inquisitive, and curious. Notice your tone of voice, and notice how emotion influences how you speak. Try changing your posture to open and receptive instead of closed and restricted. And just notice if changing physical aspects of non-verbal behavior impacts, influences, or decreases your emotion.