How to Set Your Emotional Thermostat

A thermostat is a device that automatically regulates temperature.

The job of the thermostat in your home is to keep the ambient temperature of your house at a comfortable level. This comfortable level is programmed or set into the thermostat by you. Once you set it, the furnace and air conditioner turn on and off automatically, working to keep the room temperature very close to your set point temperature. 

You can change this set point by pressing the up and down arrows or turning the dial on the device and the furnace/air conditioner will automatically turn on or off to adjust the room temperature to match the new set point.

Like the thermostat in your home, you have a similar system that automatically regulates your emotional state, although it is slightly more complex (you don’t have a compact little device with buttons or a dial to adjust emotions).

Let’s break it down and simplify it to see how this emotional thermostat works.

The job of your emotional thermostat is to keep your general emotional state at a “comfortable” level. And this “comfortable” level is set by you.

The emotional state that is “comfortable” for you is whatever emotion you are familiar with and used to experiencing. If, for example, you spend most of your day feeling worried - worried while driving, while making lunch, eating lunch, while around people, not around people, while showering, brushing your teeth, while washing, working, walking - then you are quite familiar with worry, and worry is “comfortable” for you. It may not be “healthy” or “ideal”, but you are familiar with it and used to it, so worry is “comfortable”.

“Worry”, then, is programmed by you as the set point in your “emotional thermostat”. Now, you will automatically feel worried when a situation arises. When an event happens, worry will be your automatic response, sometimes even when the event isn’t worrisome. 

Automatically feeling worried serves two functions: 1) it keeps you “comfortable” because that is what you are used to feeling and 2) it reinforces the set point in your emotional thermostat because, again, you are feeling worried and getting even more familiar with that emotion. 

As you may see, these 2 functions loop and feed each other…but worry doesn’t serve you well.

What if you want to change the set-point emotion? What if you don’t want to feel worried? How do you get out of this loop, without any buttons to push or dials to turn?

You choose to experience other emotions more often. You get familiar with the unfamiliar, and comfortable with the “un-comfortable”.

If you are used to experiencing negative and draining emotions such as worry, experiencing positive and renewing emotions such as appreciation, calm, ease, and peace will be unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable. But the more you consciously choose to experience these positive and renewing emotions (instead of automatically and unconsciously choosing to experience negative emotions), the more familiar and comfortable the renewing emotions will become.

When the positive, renewing emotional state becomes familiar and comfortable, your emotional thermostat has been reprogrammed. Now, you will automatically feel more positive when an event happens, sometimes even when the event isn’t “positive”.

It takes conscious effort and commitment to change your emotional set point, but once you change it, it’s going to reinforce itself, making it easier and easier to feel renewing emotions.

That is of great service to you and it comes with benefits! You save energy, and have more energy to do more of what you want and love to do. You have less stress. More resilience. More happiness. You think clearer, concentrate better. Your memory improves. You make wiser choices and have stronger relationships. You feel better and do better.

So, how long does it take to set your emotional thermostat? Research suggests that it takes roughly 6 weeks, or 42 days.

Setting your emotional thermostat to a positive emotional state is the foundation of our online program called The 42 Day Choice Challenge. 

In this program, we support you, as you consciously choose more positive emotions, with a daily email containing insights on finding the choice-points, reflection questions to apply your choice in your life, and a guided technique to cement the experience, so you can confidently and effectively set your emotional thermostat to serve you.

Learn more and sign up, here.

Here’s to conquering stress.

With heart,

The Stress Experts

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Sign up to receive inspiration, skills, tools, and tough love right in your inbox each week. Don't worry, we don't share your email address and we're not going to fill up your inbox with junk.