Lisa Feldman Barret in her new book How Emotions are Made: the Secret Life of the Brain posits that emotions are not simply reactions to things that happen to us, but emotions are constructed by how we make sense of our sensations, and by how we make predictions based on our past experiences and understandings. Essentially, we are the architects of our emotions and have the capacity to master our emotions or “construct” our lives differently.
One important feature Barret talks about is “body budget.” Mastering emotion begins with having a balance “body budget.” Our body budget is our body/mind/brain capacity to cope. Building a healthy body budget includes common sense practices such as eating well, maintaining a healthy weight and fitness level and taking time for relaxation. She suggests helpful activities such as massage, yoga, reading or time spent in nature. Time spent outside of our ruminations and thoughts helps us maintain a healthy body budget. Meditation can be very helpful as a chance to experience and observe emotion, accept without judgment, and release. Reading can be a mental vacation transporting us to other times and places. A powerful body budget booster is gratitude. Gratitude is known to increase levels of happiness and well-being. Additionally, Barret points to positive social interactions and freely giving to others all as body budget enhancers.