Laura and the Fly Trap

Chocolate or strawberry? Quit my job or stay? Life or death?

One thing that everyone can agree on is that we all have made our fair share of regrettable decisions based on our emotions. Show me one person who hasn't, and I will show you 10 people who have undeniably made a ton.

Our minds are powerful tools—so powerful that they can greatly affect our mental and physical health. Our emotions and the way we feel can greatly impact our decisions for good or bad.

Psychological studies have shown that your mind and your body are strongly linked. If your mental health decreases. Then your physical health can deteriorate as well.

Decision-making is a cognitive process, and the outcome involves choosing between many alternatives, according to the American Psychological Association. We often have different approaches to the process, varying between thinking and feeling.

In a recent interaction with Laura, a new member of our Quinn Healthcare Walking Program, she indicated that although she has known about the program for two years, it took a while before she made the decision to join. She told me about suffering a recent bout of depression. Laura began to come out of it after witnessing her 45-year-old first cousin—she is the same age—struggle with health complications, including a heart attack. Laura said that she never took her health seriously before this incident. She was young and felt fine, and she thought it wasn't important. She really knew it was, though.

When her first cousin was hospitalized, Laura felt as if her world had "caved in." She admitted that she struggled with emotional problems such as depression and anger for almost a year, and she made irrational decisions about her health based on those negative emotions. In turn, she developed negative mental patterns that reinforced the negative emotions. She would tell herself things like, "Why bother with my health? Everyone will die one day."

As we talked and walked, she recalled a time when she read about the various ways to catch insects. One device stood out in her mind above all others: it trapped flies. The design of this specific tool was fairly simple. Essentially, it was composed of an enclosure designed to allow the flies to enter but not exit.

Laura said that it was exactly how she felt over her cousin's health issues: trapped. Shortly after, she learned that her cousin would be OK, and said she became happy and felt like she could enjoy life again. She "was freed" from the trap, she said. She smiled and said that joining the walking program was one of the best decisions that she had made in a long time.

She thought it was impossible to stop feeling the way that she did, but she overcame the negativity. Her description of the flytrap has important messages for all of us.

Dr. Daniel Goleman, author of "Emotional Intelligence" (Bantam, 1995, $17.99), says we must first become aware of and appreciate how our emotions (in Laura's case, anger and depression) can greatly influence our decision-making ability. Negative emotions limit our perception of available options and solutions, sometimes to the point that we see no way out.

Understanding that we have the power to change negative thoughts and feelings into positive, rational, motivating thoughts is the gateway to success, and is one of the best ways to live a healthier life.

Stuck in a Negative Rut?

  • Change your thoughts, and change your life: You can increase your emotional intelligence with practice.
  • Do not allow negative emotions—such as anxiety, fears, hurt and jealousy—interfere with your daily life.
  • Do not allow "all or nothing" thinking, which limits your view of available options or choices
  • Do not allow negative emotions to affect your relationships with others.


Advancedlifeskills.com This website explores the concept of emotions and how it affects our decision-making. It also has a blog where you can share your experiences with others.

"Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goldman. (Bantam, 1995, $17.99). Assess your emotional intelligence (EQ), and change the way you think and make decisions.

Psychcentral.com (Search for "What is emotional intelligence?") Read articles and share your experiences with others about your emotions and how they influence your daily life.


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