Keeping a diary makes you happier – putting my thoughts and feelings done on paper has helped me come to terms with some of the intense experiences I have had.
The science says that just writing down your thoughts and feelings isn’t in itself cathartic. You need to go a step further. You need to reflect on your thoughts and feelings. For me this is organizing them into blog posts, my book, regular social media posts and a diary. But they will also find their way into my coach-supervision sessions.
Why do I need to write?
Writing ensures I am able to respond to clients truthfully. My conversations end up not being inappropriately emotion-driven. Or as some would say, I end up not being a drama queen.
Of course there is a place for drama queens. Don’t I know that! Just not when helping CEOs and senior executives find, speak and live their true purpose.
What’s writing got to do with helping CEOs find, speak and live their purpose?
The thing is last week I was found out. Yip, my client read me like an open book:
“Mark people buy from you when you bring appropriate emotion to bear.”
“Sorry I don’t quite understand. Are you saying be emotional?”
“There is a scale of emotion Mark. And you have to determine how far along that scale of emotion you choose to be. It will depend on many different factors which we will explore.”
“You’re being emotional,” Mark interjected.
There was a seemingly long pause.
“You’ve had some dark past,” came Marks clear crisp uninterrupted voice. Then silence.
I could hear tumble-weed. I could hear the cars outside. People talking in the distance. I hadn’t heard this background noise until now. I thought I had frozen. It was only milliseconds.
Then came the tyrant of my inner-critic. How has he seen this? Do I look unhappy? What have I said? Is my body language telling him something? What have I been doing?
I paused. Took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I have been writing my second book and the period I’m writing about is a dark time.”
Mark could see this in me. It’s OK to allow this conversation, I thought to myself. It lead us naturally to work through techniques addressing “emotional truth”. Releasing emotion is helpful as it gives you space. Space to fill the space with appropriate relevant emotion so others buy into you.
When we are able to notice, we can then make right choices
In a recent study psychologists discovered brain scans on volunteers showed that putting feelings down on paper reduces activity in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for controlling the intensity of our emotions.
When people wrote about their feelings, medical scans showed that their brain activity matched that seen in volunteers who were consciously trying to control their emotions. This gave the volunteers time to notice their more useful true emotions.
When we are able to notice, we can then make right choices.
There is a desire to want to rid ourselves of emotion
I told Mark I generally wear my heart on my sleeve. Although due to writing I am able to use “relevant emotion more appropriately” to connect with people. He agreed.
In my line of work I have to be conscious of my emotion. Much like leaders need to when in business.
It fascinates me, in my experience of working with 1000s of CEOs “there is a desire to want to rid themselves of emotion.” To rid the moment, when they are speaking to an audience, of emotion. They see emotion as negative, something they are unable to control.
4 Steps to choosing relevant and appropriate emotion:
- Keep a note book handy. A little black book, where you can write down experiences. Everyday ones. Stories really. Note down what happened, the who, the what and the how of the conversation. Then crucially write down a word that sums up how you felt. Your emotion.
- Make more conscious-driven decisions, from one situation to another. Whether you are in a 1-2-1 or team meeting or a public speaking scenario identify an intent for how you want to show up. One word that motivates you to be a certain way. This is about you choosing how you will be, moment to moment. Note your experiences in your little black book.
- Breathe. Ridiculous I know. Pay attention to your breathing, this way you create space – time for you to think and feel. This is the simplest most effective way of becoming more mindful of what you are experiencing and how you are responding.
- Feed-forward on yourself. Yip forget about feedback. Ask yourself 3 brilliantly useful questions:
- What did I do well and therefore should do more of?
- And what could I do to improve next time?
- What am I grateful for in myself?
- Note down in your little black book, your responses to point 4 above.
Keeping a diary makes you happier; it releases emotions. Writing creates space and so makes you happier.
If you want to explore the power of emotions, and how you can find them in your stories complete the River of Life exercise. You will be amazed with the results.