How to summon up positive emotions

Summoning up positive emotions: an amazing view of the Plain of Lleida

I met a good friend for a beer last night and as we were talking and I was describing the new Conscious Learning course I have just launched and the book I have started writing, he asked an interesting question about emotions. He described the feeling you get when you complete a challenging project or perform well in some professional situation and wondered if it were possible to summon up that positive emotion on demand. Clearly this would help increase your performance and so deliver more of the situations which naturally produce that high, in a virtuous circle of growth.

There is a technique I first learned from Paul McKenna in Change Your Life In Seven Days back in 2007 and I told a story to illustrate it and said I would write an article to make it available to everyone. So here is my six step process to achieve just that.

Six step process to summoning up positive emotions

1. Find some “me time”

First of all, find a time and place where you can be alone in peace and quiet – I know this seems hard these days, but as I always say, we spend more time repairing cars and appliances than on ourselves and that makes no sense! If you want to change your results and grow, think “I can” and “I want” and your brain will figure out how.

2. Invoke the emotion through a wonderful memory

What you want to do is think of a time in your life where you most strongly felt the emotion you want to experience. The more specific and real the better, but it works almost as well with more general feelings as long as you can (re)create the emotional intensity, the key to this exercise. The story I chose related to my building confidence as a professional in my internet software business. I am not a trained salesman and while I have learnt a fair bit of traditional “wisdom” on selling I adopt a different approach to most of this, which is simply to be myself and let my passion for what I do shine through.

The specific situation I described involved what was one the most lucrative yet “easily”-won contracts I ever sold (preparation was everything) in my small business web development days. Having created a web application for a client and through my copywriting and SEO skills got that site to the top of Google on some top keywords, I was contacted by a lovely husband and wife team who were starting a similar business and wanted “one of those, please”. My enthusiasm for new business and the obvious interest I had in them and their ideas generated an instant rapport and having listened and explained what I could do for them and how, they signed up there and then using the full contract I had prepared (with the back-up plan of an order from which would record their requirements and the quote) and handed me cash for the deposit. Total time from call to sale: two days. Total value of the contract: some £12,000. 

I came away from that meeting on such a high I was later able to capture and use that positive energy and summon up the positive emotions whenever I felt less confident or needed a boost. It’s an incredibly powerful and easy technique to learn. You can do the same using, for example, warm memories from your childhood – family celebrations or holidays, birthdays, graduation…any time you strongly felt the positive emotion you want to feel now. Happiness, love (and crucially feeling loved), joy…

3. Free your mind of daily concerns and connect with your body

So, back in the silence of your “me time” (if you live in a noisy neighbourhood, put on the headphones and some calming music), start by focussing on your breathing to begin to empty your mind of the rush of daily thoughts and demands. Slow, deep breaths also help relax your body and feed and cleanse your body through increased oxygen in-take. There are various meditation techniques you can use but I will just focus here on the exercise/experience itself.  What is key to this particular exercise, though, is that you place your index/pointer finger and thumb together, on both hands…these are key pressure points in the body and will help embed the memory of the emotion and your ability to recreate it on demand.

4. Re-live the memory and feel the postive emotions

Next begin to recreate that memory in your mind, putting yourself inside the memory – become that person you were, rather than watching from the outside. Think about the place, the decor, the colours. Then see and interact with the people there, hear their voices telling you how much they love and appreciate you, or thanking you for a job well done. Now add the emotions you felt as you experienced those moments and heard those words.

5. Turn up the intensity, let your emotions flow

The brain responds to sensory and emotional stimuli, so give it plenty to feed on! Increase the intensity of the colours, the sounds and the positive emotions, as if you were turning up the dimmer switch of your lights. The brighter, more vivid the colours, the louder and clearer the sounds and the more intense the emotions you feel, the more easily you will remember, as with all memories (don’t be surprised if you shed a tear – this is good, as long as it does not come from regret or pain (we are what we think) and you are focussed on the positive memory and harnessing it to create new and equally happy memories in the present).

6. Press your finger and thumbs together tighter and tighter

As you do the exercise be aware of your fingers and thumbs pressed together and as you increase the intensity, press them together ever more firmly. This creates a strong physical association which can then be used to summon up the positive emotion later.

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I cannot understate how powerful this can be. It becomes almost a Pavlovian reaction, where simply by pressing your finger and thumb together you can recreate the emotional impact of that memory in a heightened state of awareness and use it to boost your confidence, reduce stress, avoid confrontation and generally perform to your maximum ability through harnessing the huge power of your sub-conscious mind.

The best part is, you can do it subtely under the table at a meeting, on a crowded train or anywhere without people thinking you’re crazy!

Update: I have produced an audio recording for this exercise to help bring it to life. Right click this link to download my How to summon up positive emotion audio recording.

I hope this helps you become more aware of the power you have literally at your fingertips. Please share your thoughts and experiences of summoning up positive emotions and the impact this has had on your life.

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