We can exercise possibly up to five times a week, sleep up to nine hours a night, and eat two or three, perhaps up to five meals a day. Emotions affect us every second of every day. They determine if we can be bothered to exercise, get a good nights sleep, and what, when and how much to eat. As psychiatrist and pioneer in the field of psychosomatic medicine Dr Franz Alexander said, “Many chronic disturbances are not caused by external, mechanical, chemical factors, or by microorganisms, but by the continual functional stress arising from the everyday life of the organism in its struggle for existence.”
Emotion is the elephant in the room. When we understand emotion and create emotional coherence so that we can differentiate between the various emotional tunes our body is playing, then our health, wellbeing, and performance will improve dramatically. Developing emotional coherence will not only make you more productive but just might save your life.
The main contributing risk factors that were written into medical law for heart disease, for example, were height, weight, age, high blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and so on. The truth is that over 50 per cent of incidences regarding heart disease cannot be explained by these physical risk factors. Doctors have been puzzled because people are dying of heart disease every day even though they exhibit none of the risk factors. The real reason they develop the disease is mostly because of negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger, and worry brought on by circumstances in one’s life.
It is what happens to you emotionally as a result of certain events and situations that really make the difference between life and death, success and failure, happiness and misery. Negative emotion will not necessarily kill you, but what they do to your biology can. This is the distinction that is missing in modern medicine.
Many people do not feel satisfied with themselves and go through life in quiet desperation. One of the main feelings people live with is they are ‘not good enough’. What these negative thoughts do to your physiology is what destroys your health and wellbeing.
For example, failing to get the promotion does not make you unhealthy. The promotion itself is not unhealthy. What is doing the most damage is the self-punishment, depression, anxiety, and worthlessness you feel. All these feelings remain with you and take over your thinking. The stress suppresses your immune system and stress hormones surge throughout your body, leaving your body wide open to diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
It is important to comprehend how you feel about what you are doing as that has the major effect on health and happiness than what you are actually doing.
Depression is on the rise and according to a recent global study, if current trends continue, depression will be the second biggest disease by the year 2020, and the first by 2030. According to the World Federation for Mental Health, in 2012 it was estimated that 350 million people were affected by depression.
Negative emotions are dangerously toxic. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study over 20 years on the effects of worry on 1,750 men. Researchers found that worrying significantly increased the risk of developing coronary heart disease especially in the middle aged.
Emotional and stress related disorders significantly impair productivity. Studies reveal depression was identified as the most common mental health condition, responsible for 79 per cent of all time lost at work. This is notably more costly to the employer than physical disease.
Cancer is currently the second biggest killer. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, it is responsible for about a third of all deaths in the developed world. This means that heart disease and cancer collectively account for almost 70 per cent of all untimely deaths. And negative emotion has been proven to affect both.
Solid scientific data exists today that proves the clear link between psychological factors and the development of tumours. There is now zero doubt that the main artery to disease, including cancer, is negative emotions.
Dr Ellen Langer, a social psychologist and the first female professor to gain tenure in the Psychology Department at Harvard, conducted a famous study in the 1970’s about the connection between mortality and control. In Dr Langer’s words, “The message is clear – those who do not feel in control of their lives are less successful, and less psychologically and physically healthy, than those who do feel in control.”
If someone is negative or feels as though they have limited control over their life, their body creates stress hormones and these suppress the immune system. We all, for example, generate cancer cells in our body every day but if you are positive and emotionally coherent most of the time, then your immune system flushes out the potentially problematic cancer cells as part of its normal function. If you are constantly negative or emotionally incoherent this will not happen. Once the stress hormone levels suffocate the immune system over a long period of time, the cancer cells cannot be eliminated by the poorly functioning immune system, and instead they flourish and develop into cancer.
Once you learn how to manage your emotions, you alter your physiology and this can protect you from your performance from declining, and any illness and disease.
Emotional Coherence In Business
Emotions and psychology need to be understood to advance in leadership and transformation. Dr W. Edwards Deming was one of the top thought leaders of his time who foresaw the value and importance of including human Psychology to his System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK). His system provides a map of theory to understand the organizations that we work in. As Dr Deming emphasized, “A leader of transformation, and managers involved, need to learn the psychology of individuals, the psychology of a group, the psychology of society, and the psychology of change.”
While most people may have heard of emotional intelligence, not many people really know how to spot it, in themselves or in others. Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, understand, express, and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. It is important because the more you understand these aspects of yourself, the better your mental health and social behaviour will be. You will significantly improve performance and results if you become more emotionally and socially intelligent. You will find it will:
• improve the quality of decision making
• build and sustain positive relationships at work
• enhance clarity of thought and ability to learn
• facilitate effective management of change
• boost leadership presence
• improve health and well-being
• increase joy and quality of life
• spark meaning, significance and purpose
• improve intrinsic motivation and agility
• heighten self-fulfillment and sense of self
Thanks to positive psychology we can practice and assimilate positive emotions into our daily lives. This in turn can enhance our immune system and increase our protection and resilience against disease and illness.
The first step in negative situations is to Breathe. Focus on your chest and concentrate on a rhythmic, calm and smooth breathing pattern for cardiac consistency. The power output of your heart drives all your other biological systems to synchronize with your heart. It gets you to a neutral emotional position by blocking access to negative emotions.
Many disciplines such as public speaking, swimming, martial arts, pilates, and meditation all teach the importance of correct breathing. Breathing allows you to manage your self-control in highly charged situations, prevents your brain from shutting down, and to think more clearly. Breathing creates the platform on which health, wellbeing, cognitive ability, clarity of thought, building relationships and improved performance, is built. This proficiency in physiological coherence facilitates your emotional coherence.
To further boost your resilience, we all have rituals throughout our day. The main ones are “Getting ready for work”, “travelling to work”, “having lunch”, “travelling back home” and “winding down” rituals. It is important to channel positive psychology in your rituals to have a more positive mindset. Positive psychology can be in the form of music, singing, playing a musical instrument, photos, videos, a book, your diary, dancing, and whatever else allows your mind to escape to a positive place and saturates you with positive emotions. And remember these moments in highly charged situations to get you back to a positive state. As Eric Idle from Monty Python’s Life of Brian sings, “Always look on the bright side of life.”
Russell Ackoff, who was a top thought leader and systems thinker, sums up a system very effectively, “A system is a whole that is defined by its function in a larger system of which it is a part. Its properties derive out of the interaction of its parts and not the action of parts taken separately. Therefore, the system is never the sum of its parts, it is the product of their interactions.” With this in mind, giving importance and engaging in all four of the blogs in my [email protected] Series, and treating them as a system, will enhance and improve your performance. And improve your health and wellbeing for years to come.