Why it’s Easier to Feel Bad than Good
Feeling good is about more than just feeling good. And you have more control over how you feel in the moment than you may think!
The Physiological Effects of Emotions
All negative emotions are a level of the emergency fight-flight-freeze state.
During this emergency state (in other words, whenever you’re feeling any kind of negative emotion), stress chemicals are pumped into your body. The effects of these chemicals are what cause those negative feelings.
In addition to causing you to feel “bad” these stress chemicals also cause blood to drain from the prefrontal cortex of your brain (where you do your cognitive thinking) — which means that while you are feeling bad you are literally unable to think straight! That part of your brain is offline. This affects your judgement, your perception, and your ability to:
- think strategically
- notice opportunities
- process information
- communicate effectively
- and so much more
So, why is it easier to feel bad than it is to feel good?
The effects of stress chemicals are far more powerful and intense than the effects of “feel-good” chemicals. The reason for this is:
We’re designed for survival; and since stress chemicals are essential to survival in the moment (running away, fighting, pretending to be dead), while chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins are not essential for escaping immediate physical danger, the effects of stress chemicals are stronger — to get, and keep, our attention.
This is why it’s easier to feel bad than good; it’s also why, when we start down the road of feeling bad it can get increasingly difficult to pull ourselves out of that state.
We are designed to focus on the “danger” — in order to survive.
And the more we focus on it, the more of those stress chemicals are pumped into the brain and body… increasing the intensity.
The Vicious Circle
The conscious mind is constantly trying to make sense of experiences, using logic and reason. It also responds to feelings, sensations and impulses in the body; and its job is to make sense of those, and act accordingly.
When you start feeling bad, your conscious mind automatically starts searching for logical reasons for that feeling… which, in turn, perpetuates the feeling… and so on.
When you think of something, you are making neural connections in the neocortex of your brain — which triggers the release of matching chemicals… which create those feelings.
So, when you think a happy thought, you’ll notice you start to feel happy (release of those “feel-good” chemicals). When you have a worrying thought, you start to feel worried (release of stress chemicals). Wherever you put your focus determines how you feel — because the neural connections you’re firing in that moment determine the chemicals that are triggered.
Putting all of this together:
When you’re feeling a negative feeling, the stress chemicals have already entered your bloodstream, and the blood has already started to drain from your prefrontal cortex.
If you catch that early enough (something I call Zero Tolerance), you can choose to immediately redirect your focus to something funny, uplifting, enjoyable etc.
Physical exercise (go for a walk or run, if you can), or looking for five things to be grateful for (you don’t even need to find any, just looking for them will start to change your chemical state) — are effective ways to do this.
It’s not easy to shift your focus once you’re feeling bad — in fact, it will go against your instinct and will feel counter-intuitive (because, remember — we’re designed to focus on the “danger” — in order to survive), but you have to override that resistance.
Think of it as a burglar alarm going off for no reason. It’s loud, scary, and very convincing; but if you know there’s no reason for it to be going off, you need to override the compulsion to run, hide, or call the police, and instead, walk over to the control panel, and put the code in to switch it off.
This is the same. Unless your life is in immediate danger, you have to override the compulsion to continue to focus on the negative thoughts, and instead, choose to press “play” on that funny YouTube video; watch an uplifting TED Talk; listen to your favorite music; read something uplifting; do some physical exercise, do an activity you enjoy… you get the idea. And while you’re doing those things, keep redirecting your focus from whatever triggered you. Keep doing this until you are no longer triggered.
What Makes it Easier…
The EARLIER you make that choice (Zero Tolerance), the Easier and Quicker it is, to change your chemical state.
If you catch it early enough, you still have access to some of your cognitive thinking and it is easier to choose to redirect your focus. The longer you remain focused on the negative (the “danger”), the higher the concentration of stress chemicals in your body — which means, the less blood-flow to your prefrontal cortex… which means the more difficult it is to make that decision to do something to take your focus off the “danger”. This is why Zero Tolerance!
Once you’ve changed your focus and brought down the level of stress chemicals (you’re feeling better), your prefrontal cortex will be back online, and you will be able to approach whatever the issue or challenge is with a more strategic, creative, productive, and effective approach.
To find out how your subconscious is controlling your chemical (emotional) state, watch this 7-minute video:
To find out more about changing the subconscious references that are causing the excessive production of stress chemicals in the first place, read: Can We Change Adverse Childhood Memories?
Article by: Odille Remmert, www.subconscious-reprogramming.com