Are Emotions and Feelings a Choice? If So, Why Don't We Choose To Be Happy?

lifestyle Jul 13, 2020
Are Emotions and Feelings a Choice

Have you ever snapped at your wife for no apparent reason? Perhaps you’ve scolded your son or daughter only to regret it later on?

An emotional outburst here and there is unavoidable and a part of being a husband and dad. In fact, we even encourage the expression of emotions. However, wouldn’t you want to be able to choose to be happy?

We at Dad University believe feelings are a choice. By choosing feelings, you’ll react more positively to situations at home. No longer will you yell at your kids or get into a scuffle with your wife.

Learn more about how your emotions work, why they can get the better of you at times, and how you can choose to be happy no matter what life throws your way!

A Quick Disclaimer

Before we dive into how emotions work and how you can reframe them, we’d like to make it clear that the contents of this article aren’t meant to replace therapy.

If you’re severely anxious or depressed, it’s best that you speak to a licensed professional. Everything we share in this article (though helpful) may not suffice for serious bouts of depression or anxiety.

Nevertheless, everything we cover here is applicable to your everyday annoyances or out-of-home situations that just “tick you off.”

Why You Feel What You Feel

Whenever you experience anger, disappointment, or any emotion that can ruin your mood, several parts of your brain can react in different ways.

Some areas of your brain are hard-wired to respond to positive experiences, and others kick in whenever there’s a stressful or life-threatening situation.

What your brain perceives as positive or negative will depend on several factors — here are some of them.

The Meaning You Give to a Situation

The meanings we assign to situations can dictate how the brain processes emotions and feelings. Hence, a simple switch in the meaning you give a situation can go a long way in helping you respond positively.

Here’s an example:

Imagine that your son comes home one day with a D in math. Being a dad who’s all about raising high-performing kids, you become angry and disappointed with your child at the same time.

By contrast, if you were a more process-oriented dad who recognizes room for improvement, the same grade wouldn’t anger you. Instead, you’d recognize the grade as a normal part of your son’s academic journey.

When you look at these two situations, the grade didn’t change. However, what’s different is your outlook and the meaning you assign to the situation.

Your Previous Experience With Similar Situations

You may also be angry, sad, or disappointed about a situation because of your previous experience with a similar situation.

Negative situations are sources of trauma that can be tough to shake off. As a result, what you feel about a current situation may actually be due to an unhealed trauma resulting from a similar situation or event in your past.

The Story You Tell Yourself

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we tell stories about ourselves to ourselves, and while this isn’t always a negative thing, it can also cause us to have unfair expectations of ourselves and other people.

Here’s an example:

Suppose you always fancied yourself to be a good dad all the time. One day, you were so tired from work that you were unable to bring your kids to soccer practice.

By trying to live up to the unrealistic story of being a good dad all the time, you felt disappointed in yourself even if you had a legitimate reason to recharge your batteries.

This example shows how the stories we tell ourselves can sometimes be the source of our negative feelings.

Your Need for Attention

Lastly, we may unconsciously act out our negative feelings because we desire attention.

Acting out of anger and disappointment is a recipe for conflict, be it with your kids or your spouse. When you engage in a heated exchange due to your anger and disappointment, two things happen.

First, the outburst places all the attention on you and the conflict becomes your source of the attention you seek, even if it’s negative attention.

Second, and most importantly, acting out of negative feelings becomes a self-perpetuating feedback loop. The more heated the exchange, the angrier you become. The angrier you get, the longer the argument ensues.

See how that works?

How To Choose To Be Happy

Now that we know how emotions work, here’s how you can choose feelings and experience joy in your life again.

1. Feel the Emotion

Whether you’re feeling angry, sad, or annoyed, it’s never healthy to always sweep your emotions under the rug. Instead, feel what you’re feeling and remind yourself that emotions are normal.

2. Recognize the Emotion

Once you’re aware of your feelings, label them. Labeling your emotions is a helpful way to regain perspective on what you’re going through and doing so can give you more control over your feelings.

3. Ask “Will This Feeling Help?”

After you’ve recognized your feelings, ask yourself whether or not your current emotion helps a situation. Often, you’ll find that the answer is “no.”

Instead, take a deep breath, and move on to step four.

4. Change What You’re Feeling

Is it really that simple? You bet!

Remember. Your negative emotions won’t make you feel any better, nor will they improve any situation at work or at home.

Hence, remind yourself of this and choose to be happy — it really is that simple, especially when you consider that negative feelings can lead to disastrous outcomes and quarrels with the people you love.

Go From Mad Dad to Glad Dad

Feelings are a necessary part of life, but it’s what you do with them that counts. Practice the tips we’ve shared here and you’ll be amazed at how much happier you’ll be no matter what happens.

Choosing to be happy is as simple as it sounds. However, if you need help with choosing feelings or with anything else dad-related, we at Dad University have you covered.

We offer a membership that has helped dads like you overcome various challenges. With our membership, our members have leveled up their fatherhood game and become excellent husbands at the same time.

Watch the "Are Emotions and Feelings a Choice? If So, Why Don't We Choose To Be Happy?" video here:

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