Why do we feel emotions and when is it important to let them go?
When we talk about emotions and feelings, it’s easy to think of them as something that happens to just your heart and mind. But did you know that your body also has a physical reaction? After all, they’re called feelings because you literally feel the emotion with your body.
The 90-Second Rule
Neuroscientist Jill Bolte-Taylor has shared a concept called the 90-second rule. Our bodies go through a chemical process for about 90 seconds when we have a reaction to something in our environment. But after that, our emotional response can keep happening and it’s because we’re staying the emotional loop.
Basically, that means that something happens outside of you that you have a reaction to, making chemicals and hormones like adrenaline flood through your body. Your body processes these chemicals in less than 90 seconds – so if you know this is what’s happening, you can recognise the physical sensations caused by your emotions, feel their impact, and then let them fade away.
However, what we often do is hold on to those feelings by telling ourselves a story about why we’re feeling them. Maybe a friend says something offhand that makes you mad. You feel a flush and the prickle of adrenaline and you might start turning the comment over and over in your head, second-guessing why they said it and what they really meant. You might even start thinking about what you want to say back about it. The physical sensations of anger have faded by now but you’re stuck in an emotional loop you’ve created.
Next time you feel a flush of negative emotions, take a few breaths, maybe walk away for a minute or so, let the feeling run its course in your body and then? Just… let it go.
The next time you’re upset and just about to send an angry response to someone, step away from your computer or put your phone down. Go for a walk, eat an apple, or kick a ball around. Give your mind and body a little break and hold off on sending that text, email or chat message – you’ll likely feel different soon, especially if you break the cycle of your upset thoughts. And if, after you’ve let your emotion run its course, you still want to express what you’re thinking, you’ll be able to do so calmly and clearly without saying anything you might regret later.