Investigation Managing Emotions to Make Good Decisions

Psychology

Buddhi Maharjan 👤 Investigation Managing Emotions to Make Good Decisions (Part 2 of 3)

For this three-part investigation, you’ll apply concepts of emotion, memory, and mental health to emotional regulation and decision making.

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Objective: Describe strategies for regulating emotion.

Emotions have a strong and often lasting effect on our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Emotional regulation strategies are important in the decision-making process.

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A Vicious Cycle

In this section, you will learn about the relationships between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, as well as strategies for regulating emotions.

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Emotions have a strong and often lasting effect on our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Our ability to manage our emotions is often referred to as emotional regulation. It is a complex process that we develop throughout life as we learn how to identify the emotions we are experiencing, understand the physiological reactions related to those emotions, and develop skills to manage the behavioral expression of the emotions. Good emotional regulation strategies are linked to increased happiness and improved mental health, and are also important in the decision-making process.

Emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are all linked together and affect each other, as illustrated in the figure below. This cycle of interpreting a situation, identifying the emotion, and deciding how to act can be hijacked if a person is experiencing depression or anxiety because his or her negative or fearful thoughts will already be in place and searching for confirmation.

This graphic depicts the emotion-thought-behavior cycle as a circle with four components: thoughts, behavior, physical reaction, and emotions. Arrows between each component depict how the cycle can go in either direction. In the center of the circle is the word “situation.” Around the circle, thoughts are represented by an image of the brain, with the caption “What we think affects how we feel and behave.” Behavior is represented by an outline of three people with a thought bubble above their heads and the caption, “What we do affects how we think and feel.” Physical reaction is represented by a red heart inside the outline of a person’s body with the caption “Our body’s response affects how we feel and what we do.” Emotions are represented by two theatrical masks, one happy and one sad, with the caption, “What we feel affects how we think and respond.”

Clint McFarlin/Soomo Learning

Consider how this emotion-thought-behavior cycle might play out for a person (we’ll call her Cassandra) who receives some negative feedback from a manager at work. Even though she doesn’t suffer from depression or anxiety, Cassandra may still think, “I’m so embarrassed and stupid. I’m going to get fired.” She experiences unpleasant physical reactions such as increased heart rate and difficulty sleeping, which is interpreted as fear the next morning, and she decides to stay home to avoid feeling this way around her manager. Instead of relieving her discomfort, this behavior reinforces her feelings of worthlessness and anxiety over the possibility of getting fired. In this situation, the strategy Cassandra used to regulate her emotions (missing work) is not effective. And the vicious cycle is likely to continue.

Tips for Regulating Emotions

This vicious cycle can, if left unchecked, develop into a pattern of thought and behavior. Unless Cassandra does something differently, or changes the way she thinks about the situation, each time that she avoids embarrassment and anxiety around her manager by missing work, the initial thought of failure is also reinforced. Regulating emotions involves regulating the other components in the cycle as well:

Regulating thoughts. When you first notice yourself becoming upset, try to identify the emotion and the thoughts that are driving that emotion. Some questions that may help include:

How would someone else interpret this? Am I seeing this clearly or do I need to reappraise my thoughts? If I am feeling fearful, what is it that I’m really afraid of? What is the likelihood that what I’m afraid of will actually happen? Instead of thinking of the worst that could happen, what is the best that could happen in this situation?

Regulating behaviors. When we are in a vicious cycle of emotional dysregulation, we often react instead of carefully responding, or may forget to take notice of any positive behaviors or achievements. Here are some habits that may help:

Stop and think before you act. Ask yourself if your emotional interpretation of the situation is either correct or reasonable and if your response is appropriate to the situation. You may find that you need to choose a different behavioral response than the one you initially wanted to react with. Notice that sometimes regulating your behavior requires regulating your thoughts first. Congratulate yourself for small accomplishments in a positive direction. Did you go to work when you wanted to stay home? Own that and praise yourself. Did you implement one of the strategies that your manager suggested during your review? Recognize yourself as an awesome employee who wants to work hard!

Regulating the body. We all know it is true—and easier said than done—that a healthy body is important for healthy emotional regulation. The vicious cycle of emotional dysregulation can create physiological symptoms that make decision- making difficult. It can also interfere with sleep or make us feel too tired to exercise, or even make us crave unhealthy foods. Here are some tips that may help:

Calm the body before making a decision or responding to a situation. If the body is in a heightened state, it is more likely to rely on the emotional areas of the brain to interpret the situation instead of the rational areas. Taking some deep breaths or a brief walk to “shake it off” will help you regulate your body so that you can better regulate your thoughts and behaviors.

You don’t have to go on a strict diet, but instead can pick one meal a day to enjoy fresh and healthy foods. Notice the way your body feels afterward and recognize that good feeling as a reward. Notice, also, how the body responds when you consume a lot of sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. Move, everyday, in a way that you find enjoyable. A brief walk outside can do wonders for your body, your thoughts, and your emotions. A few jumping jacks can snap you out of a bad mood. Don’t push yourself too hard if you’re not used to exercising; just enjoy the movement and notice how your body and your feelings are uplifted.

Multiple-Choice Question

Regulating the body’s physical reactions and one’s thoughts in a situation are most closely related to which of the following?

the two-factor theory of emotions, which distinguishes between explicit and implicit memories the two-factor theory of emotions, which says that emotions are comprised of physiological arousal and cognitive appraisal the Atkinson-Shiffrin model of sensory, short-term, and long-term memory systems the brain’s low-road neural pathway for processing emotions subconsciously in the amygdala, which bypasses the frontal lobe

Correct. Cognitive appraisal relates to regulating thoughts while physiological arousal relates to recognizing the body’s physical reactions.

Last saved 16 days ago. Multiple-Choice Question

What is an important implication of the emotion-thought-behavior cycle?

Only emotions and behaviors can be changed, not thoughts. Only thoughts can be changed, not behaviors. Changing one component can break the cycle and lead to improvement. Changing one component is not enough to break the cycle.

Correct. The cycle can be stopped and even reversed to create a positive cycle by changing even one component.

Last saved 16 days ago. Multiple-Choice Question

The idea that we can improve our mental health by changing our thoughts and behaviors is most closely related to what type of therapy?

exposure therapy cognitive-behavioral therapy humanistic therapy psychodynamic therapy

Correct. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on helping people by changing their thoughts and beliefs as well as their behaviors.

Last saved 16 days ago. Multiple-Choice Question

Daniel often feels afraid when he tries to talk to someone new and he is usually ignored and brushed off because of his difficulty making conversation. Daniel decides to stay home rather than attend a neighborhood block party. According to the cycle described above, how might this choice affect Daniel’s thoughts and emotions?

He will regret not attending the party and decide to attend the next party. He will feel temporarily relieved, but staying home will reinforce his fears. He will be proud of his decision and feel confident. He will feel relieved and better able to handle the next invitation.

Correct. Daniel’s thoughts and emotions are affecting his behavior and by deciding to stay home, his behavior is reinforcing his thoughts and emotions.

Last saved 16 days ago. Multiple-Choice Question

When Brittany’s sister invites her to attend an aerobic dance class, Brittany lies and says she is busy. The truth is that she feels self-conscious about her weight and imagines other people in the class looking at her. She would rather go home and watch TV. Which of the following is a way Brittany can break this vicious emotion-thought-behavior cycle?

She should tell her sister to go and report back to her about whether any of the other people are also overweight. She should watch a video of a similar aerobic dance class at home in order to see how some of the moves are performed. She should promise her sister that she will go next week. She should motivate herself to go to the class by thinking about how much fun she and her sister will have dancing together.

Correct. Brittany can change her thoughts by thinking about something good that can happen, like having fun, instead of something bad.

Last saved 16 days ago. close

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