The Quick Path from Negative to Positive Emotion for Leaders and Teams

Our granddaughter and her friends feel sad and stressed these days. Who could blame them? She’s sixteen.

Dahlia happily told us about her new job while we ate lunch. She waits tables at a local restaurant. She’s making money. More importantly, she’s not sitting around the house. She’s doing something.

“It’s interesting how doing something can make us feel better,” I said. “We can feel our way into action, or we can act our way into feelings.” Her eyes went bright.

“I notice when I feel blue, if I take a walk, I feel better,” she said.

Turtle walking

If you feel down, take a walk.

Emotion and action:

What comes first, emotion or action?

Do feelings govern behaviors? People who feel good at work do good work, for example.

You might think action follows feeling, but there’s more to it. If you don’t believe me, put a big smile on your face right now. Show your teeth and wrinkle the corners of your eyes.

You have to be committed to sadness to feel sad and smile at the same time, even if the smile is fake.

Research shows that smiling elevates happiness, frowning makes you sad, and scowling makes you feel anger.

Amy Cuddy explains that body language may shape who you are. Two minutes of standing like Wonder Woman, for example, increases feelings of confidence.

Feeling follows action.

You don’t do angry things because you’re angry. You feel anger because you do angry things.

We are able to act our way into feelings. Put succinctly.

Action creates emotion.

Emotion is a feedback system that allows learning from behavior.

Baby smiling.

Action creates emotion.

Answer negative emotion:

Thinking about doing something is more stressful than doing something. Yes, plan that tough conversation, but for goodness’s sake, have it!

Meaningful action enables leaders to get a grip on negative emotion.

Which actions produce positive emotion in you?

What actions might produce positive emotion on your team today?

Bonus material:

Action Creates Emotion | Psychology Today

NOTE: Not all action produces positive emotion. I am not a psychologist. This post is not intended to address mental illness.