Emotional Triggers

What’s behind your feelings?

Your child's first steps will trigger happiness and chants of encouragement; retelling a crazy story with your friends will trigger excitement followed by jokes and laughter; trying to unsubscribe from all of those emails will trigger anger, frustration, and a possible murderous rampage. What all of those things have in common? That life is simple, there is action, reaction, and more action.

When building a habit, a great deal of effort is given to triggers. As we stress a lot on this website, for a behavior to occur three ingredients must converge at the same time, Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. Your emotions are real good triggers to get you into action. So understanding them and when they occur will have a great impact on whether your reactions are in proportion to what’s happening or not.

So, what emotions are moving you?

Is it hurt that triggers anger? Annoyance that triggers you to open Instagram? Fear of missing out that makes you open news articles of tragedy day in and day out?

According to Behavior Designer Nir Eyal, behaviors are “driven by one of three Core Motivators: seeking pleasure or avoiding pain, seeking hope and avoiding fear, seeking social acceptance while avoiding social rejection.” Your favorite apps and web services rely on those core motivators to sell you something. So when you react, which one of those three is triggering you?

If you are like me, at first you are not really sure about which feeling is behind what you do. You may remember some extreme cases when you overreacted, but in the spur of the moment, you’re not aware of what’s going on. So what do you do?

You sit with your feelings. You meditate.

Before you think about lighting up some incense, play some weird music, and sing a mantra. Let me first clarify what I mean about meditation.

Meditation is for the mind, the same thing exercise and a good diet is to your body and health. Forget all ut that wacky weird shit. You clock some meditation every day so you can think straight, that’s all. You might sit and observe your mind by yourself, or you can hire a service to do some guided mental training.

I like to use Sam Harris’ Waking Up app (Headspace and Calm are good, but as far as I can tell, Waking Up is the best one on the market). There is a training phase, followed by daily meditations or courses you can take on mindfulness, stoicism, empathy, etc. One of the things I like about this app is that in some sessions, Sam trains you to invoke some emotions, perhaps you focus on someone with who you have a difficult relationship. You will learn to notice your body, how you feel, where you feel. With time it becomes easier to translate that to normal life. You might get the physical signs of anger and say “Oh, there’s anger over here. Let me calibrate how I feel.”

As we’ve said earlier, in life, there is action, reaction, and more action. When you understand what’s behind your feelings, it becomes easier to understand your behaviors and build better habits around them.

Hope you find it useful.

Talk to you soon,

Lucas Napier Better Habits, Better Health

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