You Can Control Your Negative Feelings

According to neuroscientist and stroke survivor Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD., feelings generated by negative stimulus don’t have to last more than 90 seconds.

I’ll let Martha Beck explain it:

“Physiologically, it takes only 90 seconds of feeling the emotion caused by a negative event before the body finishes processing its stress hormones and returns to its baseline setting.”

According to Dr. Taylor,

“Unless you rerun that loop by rethinking the thoughts that restimulate the emotion…the uncomfortable feelings will go away.”

I actually think I saw this happen in my own body recently. I was putting together a video tribute to my late father and it got to me. My husband gave me a hug and I fell apart, but after a half-dozen good sobs, the negativity faded and I was able to return to my normal happy state.

Dr. Taylor is a neuroscientist who suffered a stroke, observed how it affected the destruction of her brain, and recovered to write and speak about the experience. If you have about 15 minutes, watch her preso at TED. It gets pretty emotional toward the end, but in a good way.  She makes you feel hopeful about the great gift of being human.

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  1. says

    “Unless you rerun that loop by rethinking the thoughts that restimulate the emotion…the uncomfortable feelings will go away.”

    That’s the hard part there! 😉 Something about those negative experiences seems to make them imprint on your brain, and you have a hard time letting them go for a while.

  2. says

    I had the amazing opportunity of interviewing Dr. Taylor on Feisty Side of Fifty Radio–also 15 min. if your readers would like to listen.
    I was struck both by the power of her words and her presence–even though our meeting took place over the phone. You and both seem to have been touched by the fact that the biological reaction to stress is a mere 90 seconds. It’s our choice whether or not to continue to feel that discomfort or let it go. How thought-provoking and how liberating!

  3. says

    What an inspirational message for all of us. It is so important that we share our stories of hope to give each other encouragement. It is so easy to get caught up in the negativity and that does affect our physical being. Thanks for this reminder Lynne! I’m all for “getting on with the gladness”( as Nanci) said in this one precious life we get to live :-)

  4. Nanci says

    I heard her speak on NPR and have been wanting to read that book.
    I also loved the quote in that same Oprah article… “We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of the world.” ..Gilbert I know I sometimes get so caught up in the negativity in the news that I feel bad about feeling good…. I need to give myself 90 seconds and get on with the gladness!

  5. says

    Powerful stuff! I sometimes feel that as writers we are walking/talking pain barometers with a hypersensitivity to everything that makes us feel things including negativity so much more deeply. After spending my summer at a family cabin in Wisconsin, I am glad to be reconnected to internet again and back to following your musings.

  6. says

    Yes, Lynne — this, I think, is similar to what Abe Lincoln used to say, Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I’m by nature an optimist, but that doesn’t mean black clouds never affect me; I’ve found that it’s easy to stay optimistic by surrounding myself with other optimistic people, rather than the downers who always find something to complain about!

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