Many blokes like to see themselves as strong and tough. Maintaining physical fitness is a really important activity for our overall wellbeing. I remind myself of this every time I feel my face reddening, sweat pouring and gasping for breath at the gym!
Being strong and tough, however, seems to cause great confusion and a ton of pressure when it comes to understanding the meaning of emotional strength.
Guys tend to think that the last thing they want is all that ‘touchy, feely’ stuff going on, that’s women’s business!
Ok, I can’t speak on behalf of all men, so forgive me if I have offended you, that’s not a great way to start a blog post!
Stay with me!
In general, our intellectual, manly, blokey brains are wired for solutions and answers.
Guys enter my consulting room with requests for “the tools, the steps, the map, the guide, the e-book, the blog post, the book, the tool kit, the workshop, the pill, the YouTube clip, Facebook group… “.
Have I missed anything!
It’s fine to tap into some of the great resources out there. One of the most powerful ways to grow and change is to learn more about your emotions.
There are ways you can build emotional strength.
How strong are your emotional muscles?
The term emotional muscle for me conjures up an image of a weeping bicep or an angry tricep!
Did you know you have an emotional muscle? Indeed it looks like you have more than one!
Here are some.
The emotional brain
One of the key areas of your brain that deals with showing, recognising and controlling the body’s reactions to emotions is known as the limbic system.
Some of the most interesting research available right now is in the field of neuroscience and in particular how the brain can grow and change.
Scientists now know that the brain has the ability to change and heal itself in response to mental experience. This is known as Neuroplasticity.
Our brain is not fixed. It can create new neural pathways to adapt to its needs. You may have noticed how much brain training is available out there now to help us improve our mental functioning and possibly reduce the risk of dementia and alzheimer’s.
Strengthening the muscles of the brain is becoming increasingly effective in improving mental and emotional health.
The Heart of the matter
Our heart is essential to our life pumping blood through our body. Our heart is also the place where we experience many of our feelings.
Think for a moment what happens to your heart beat when the person you love returns from a holiday. Or how your heart may skip a beat when you hear some awful news.
If you feel frustrated or nervous in the lead up to a job interview or a public speaking event notice what happens to your heartbeat.
The Gut instinct – our second brain
Did you know the gut not only digests our food it regulates our mood?
Are you familiar with some of the phrases we use to describe our moods in relation to our gut? Such as:
“It was a gut wrenching experience …”
“I’ve got a gut feeling that today is going to be a tough one”
“I got butterflies in my stomach before the TV interview”
“I’m gutted we lost the game”’
There is emerging and fascinating research about the relationship between the bacteria in the gut and how they influence brain chemistry which in turn affects our moods including depression and anxiety.
For example, certain gastro-intestinal disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome are known to have links with anxiety.
Scientists are discovering a ‘second brain’ in our gut that has a direct relationship with the brain in our head! The lining of our gut has a network of neurons that doesn’t just deal with our digestion, but also our emotions.
I think this stuff is amazing and I encourage you to read and research more.
How do you know your muscles need strengthening?
It’s likely that there are certain moods that, from time to time, you find yourself struggling with. Such as:
- Impatience and irritability
- High anxiety
- Low confidence
- Overly critical of yourself and others
- Avoidant of certain feelings
- Consistent events or people that fire up your most difficult feelings
There may be certain feelings that you tend to avoid or get really bogged down with such as:
These moods or feelings may be signs that you need emotional muscle strengthening.
If you consider the gut as a ‘second brain’ and how it impacts on our mood, there may be certain kind of foods or ingredients you eat that trigger certain moods or feelings.
Emotions dictate how we think, behave and act.
Emotions enable us to react to situations – for example, anger or fear will set your heart racing, and feeling happy will make you smile.
Men and women tend to respond to their emotions differently. Women are generally likely to express their feelings more directly and share them with friends and family. Men will generally hide their feelings and often withdraw.
However men and women both have emotional triggers. It really depends on how tuned in we are which determines how we flex our emotional muscles.
How would you rate the strength of your emotional muscle?