If there is one lesson to take away from the mainstream self help industry- this is probably it.
For the sake of this conversation, we will focus on purely the importance that physiology plays in our emotions and our subjective experience.
Tony Robbins is the perfect example of how powerful of a factor physiology is in creating our emotions and the way we operate in the world. If you watch Tony Robbins in his new documentary you will see how much he has mastered his physiology. He performs these strange rituals that get his body into state and condition his nervous system to move, breathe and operate in certain way. In one part you see him jumping on a mini trampoline. In another scene he is working on his posture while doing a breathing exercise and pumping his arms up and down. Before he gets on stage, he performs certain gestures and incantations. While on stage, his physiology is incredibly relaxed, with his shoulders back and down. This contributes to his incredible level of certainty and emotional mastery. He has been doing this stuff for the last 30+ years and his dedication to these practices is clearly second to none. He didn’t get this physiological and emotional mastery over night, he did it over day after day, month after month and year after year. This display of mastery and the power of daily rituals, performed for weeks, months, years and decades is a theme that will be referenced over and over.
In spite of my understanding of physiology I still find myself experiencing bad moods. I still get anxious at times. I still get irritable. What I notice is that when I am in these states I have the tendency to go up in my head and try to think my way out of them and solve them rationally. I get super analytical and start to ask questions like “what must I believe to be feeling this way?” A great example of this transpired earlier this year. About six months ago, I was on my way to pick up this girl for a date and I was feeling pretty anxious. It was a shitty feeling. I was tense and my thoughts were racing and I kept trying to think my way out of it. But the more questions I asked myself, the worse my emotional state seemed to get. I had only about ten minutes left in my drive until I was going to pick her up and I was freaking out over the thought that “if I show up in this emotional state, this date is going to be terrible and will be no fun”. Then finally something that a mentor of mine has said to me a hundred times popped up in my head: “80% of the way you feel is determined by the way you move your body”. I realized my car seat was quite erect so I instantly reclined my seat back a bit, which put me in a more relaxed, laid back posture. Then I started to breathe fully and really exhaled under a 4-5 second count. Prior to that I was breathing very shallow. Then I put a smile on my face and started to laugh and think about a funny experience I had in the past. In the matter of a few seconds, my entire demeanor changed. I was now loose, fun and playful, but I didn’t make this shift by thinking my way through it. I made this shift through my physiology- mainly my posture, breathing and facial expressions. As William James said- “we’re happy because we sing, NOT we sing because we’re happy”.
The power of physiology in relationship to our emotional state is not just something Tony Robbins made up. It is empirically supported by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy’s research and detailed in her Ted talk and her best selling book Presence. Mike Cernovich, a popular self help blogger, also illustrates the importance of physiology in his book Gorilla Mindset .
To add the evidence, there was a study where they had severely depressed patients force a smile in front of a mirror for 2 hours per day. After a month they were no longer depressed. It was impossible for them to be. They had rewired and reconditioned their physiology (and subsequently their neurology) so they were no longer able to live in that depressed emotional state on a consistent basis.
Different people have different triggers. Some may respond better to posture, some may be more reliant on their breathing. But all 3 facets are important to focus on. So here is the actual equation for mastering your emotional state and therefore your experience in life:
So how do you truly master your physiology and get to this level of mastery? I wouldn’t recommend implementing everything at once. You take one part of your physiology and master it for 30 days. And by master it, I mean you constantly focus on it for every waking moment of the day. Write reminders on sticky notes and leave them in your room, by your computer, in the bathroom, in your car, etc. Wear a rubberband on your wrist to remind you to focus on it. These symbols are to remind you to enact this change at every second of your waking consciousness. After these 30 days this habit will be formed and it will be a way of being. Then you can spend the next 30 days mastering another aspect of your physiology. Truly creating a new habit in your physiology has the power to transform your world. What are some examples of what I’m talking about?
The reason you should only focus on one of these little things for 30 days (rather than integrating all of it) is so that you guarantee your success and ensure you are laser focused. I also realized that the past week, though I have only been obsessed and focused on my breathing, that my posture and facial expressions have improved incidentally and “come along for the ride”. It is almost like they are all interconnected and communicate with each other in some way. When I start to breathe more fully, I realize that often times by shoulders and posture become more relaxed, as well as my tight face begins to loosen and grin.
-Anchoring using your whole body (will be discussed in other posts)
-Power posing- abundance pose/etc.
-intense cardio/interval training
-jumping on a rebounder or trampoline
-deep breathing/mindfulness training
-contrast hot/cold showers- forces your body to breath and move differently
-watching funny movies/making a point to laugh hard every day