‘Anyone can become angry---that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way---this is not easy. ARISTOTLE, The Nicomachean Ethics’
The one who observes people, understands them well. The one who understands people, can learn well and guide well. The one who guides well, can lead well. Earlier leadership was about the leader, soon the world emphasized on the leader, his own self, interactions between the team members, and then the team as a whole. As the number of interactions increase, the dynamics of a group change. Hence, leadership largely involves managing inter and intrapersonal relationships. Emotional Intelligence is necessary in leadership. A mindful leader can be an effective leader. A leader and the group members synchronize in order to create harmony.
Mindfulness and Leadership
Mindfulness has enjoyed a tremendous surge in popularity in the past decade, both in popular press and psychotherapy literature. Advocates of mindfulness mention the benefits in developing self-control, affect tolerance, objectivity, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence, and ability to relate to others and oneself with kindness, acceptance and compassion. These all are prerequisites for each act or a job an individual performs. Leadership is all about being mindful of one's own behavior, decisions and of people too. Mindfulness in leadership has proven to be an important topic of research.
The term “mindfulness” has been used to refer to a psychological state of awareness, a mode of processing information and a character trait.
It is a moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment. In this it may be a state and not a trait. The art is to build this state in activities of daily living. Being aware of this state is being aware of what is happening within i.e the awareness of emotions. Being aware of these emotions is being observant about the role of hormones which regulate our emotions. Our existence is largely ruled by emotions and the role of hormones. One can be a successful leader if one is mindful of these mighty emotions. The knowledge “of why people behave the way they behave”.
Emotions are the essence of our existence. We, as species possess an innate ability to express, to emote, to feel, and to react in subtle ways as well as at extremities. Literally, the Oxford English Dictionary defines emotion as “any agitation or disturbance of mind, feeling, and passion, any vehement or excited mental state.” Besides, sometimes they are blended, they are mutated, they are in variations and they differ in intensity and frequency. Some refer to them as feelings, one having distinctive thoughts, a phase which affects one's psychological and physiological states. The human body is deeply connected from tip to toe. The relationship between mental health and physical health is strong and interdependent. To understand mental health it is necessary to know about their relationship. We all emote in different ways, at different levels and create magic! The mental health professionals, during therapy, identify triggers. A trigger is something that affects one's emotional state, often significantly, by causing extreme overwhelm or distress. A trigger affects one’s ability to remain present in the moment. It may bring up specific thought patterns or influence your behavior.
The Basic Human Emotions
There are hundreds of emotions for which words are insufficient. Sometimes, labelling them would be tricky. Researchers continue to argue over which emotions can be considered primary-the blue, red and the yellow from which all other blends of emotions emerge. For example, the blends of jealousy, a variant of anger that also melds sadness and fear or situations of hope and faith, courage and forgiveness. There are no clear answers, the scientific debate on how to classify emotions continues. But theorists propose basic families, the main candidates are: Anger, Sadness, Fear, Enjoyment, Love, Surprise, Shame and Disgust.
The basic emotions are addressed to families. For example, in love- acceptance, friendliness, trust, kindness, affinity, devotion, adoration, infatuation is a part of the love family.
Each of these families have a basic core. These cores are ‘moods’, ‘temperament’ and ‘disorders’.
Moods are outer ripples. They last a bit longer than an emotion.
Temperament, readiness to evoke given emotion or a mood that makes people merry or timid.
Beyond these are disorders of emotions, such as clinical depression or anxiety, in which someone feels perpetually trapped in a toxic state.
We function in cyclic patterns. The environments around us, the interactions influence the way we evolve and affect our behaviors. People, places and situations come along with emotions. Every emotion triggers hormonal secretions.
The mighty role of hormones
The word “hormone” comes from Greek derived from the word “hormao” that denotes, “stimulate”, “move”, “impulse”, “excite”. Hormones are chemical reactions. These chemical reactions affect our emotions, behavior and even the way we think. The neuromodulators control the activities of the neurotransmitters I.e. the increase or the decrease of a specific sensation. The hormones are secreted by the mighty endocrine glands. The hormones are swift, they circulate in the bloodstream and are capable of contacting all the organs. These rapid contacts with the organs thereby control the growth, sleep, reproduction, mood and more. Hormones significantly contribute to mental well-being. Imbalance of the same is demonstrated in physical affection or emotional manifestation. For instance, an increase or decrease in secretion of a hormone may result in physical discomfort or affect one’s mental health.
Adrenaline is released in situations which require high energy. It gives extra energy in critical and urgent situations. It is a response to a stressful situation and also a way to cope up with dangerous environments. It is also released in high amounts during demanding physical activities. Secreted by the central nervous system and by the adrenal glands, it stays for short periods (about two minutes).
In combination with some other hormones, it is responsible for the states one goes through when in love! Adrenaline is released during psychological stress, emotional worries and anxiety disorders. Sometimes, the triggers can be in everyday routine activities too. For example, it is released while watching a scary movie, or while public speaking, while taking a test or while skydiving. The over and under release of any hormone is unhealthy.
Here are 5 things a leader can do to reduce or manage stressful situations or triggers:
1. Meditation has been researched to be an effective method to release stress.
2. Eating a healthy diet coupled with exercise and enough sleep
3. Maintaining a strong support system
4. Seeking help from professionals
5. Identifying the triggers i.e. prior knowledge of what may cause anxiety.
What can leaders do?
In difficult work situations, leaders can develop routine to engage in effective planning of events, to be alert of the triggers to what may affect his/her own team, to encourage participation in group activities to build a strong support system, where team members can vent. While adrenaline is released when an individual is love struck, Cortisol is the one when lonely. Cortisol is a steroid hormone, released under stress to provide energy. The level of cortisol increases in stressful and anxious situations. The prime purpose of its release is to make an individual feel safe. Once the hormone is released it makes an individual feel safe and alerts them to stay safe, restrict experimentation and remain in one’s comfort zone. The maximum secretions is in the early morning and least at late night and afternoon, which clearly explains the difference in mood patterns throughout the day and at night. The state of loneliness amplifies, according to experts, the dose of cortisol in the body. High cortisol levels lead to increase in irritability, mood swings which show as anxiety and depression. Low levels of cortisol are life threatening as it increases fatigue, muscle weakness, skin darkening and dizziness.
As the hormone is released during a stressful situation, one can control its regulation in following ways:
1. Trying relaxation techniques
2. Taking up a hobby
3. Learning to unwind
4. Making conscious efforts to lower the stress than magnifying the situation
6. Indulging in activities which are fun helps control the levels of cortisol
What can leaders do?
There are varied everyday uninvited stressors, the regulation of cortisol is in abundance. Leaders can try to maintain their balance, be aware of their actions and be bold with their decisions. It is difficult to be everyone's buddy. It is important to be divergent in thinking in order to maintain a cohesive atmosphere. For example, trying to solve a work situation objectively, by making conscious efforts to identify the stressors and concerns. Adrenaline gives energy, the cortisol protects in stressful situations, while the popular Dopamine is a happiness hormone. The dopamine in large amounts, increases the positive state of mind. It influences moods and is involved in controlling emotions, movement and appearance of pleasure. Caffeine, chocolate and sports favor synthesis of dopamine. Interestingly, the levels of dopamine differ in adolescents and adults. Adolescents are extremely sensitive to situations or substances which create “good” momentum for example the attractions towards alcohol, nicotine and drugs. On the other hand, it also helps the system to stay focused, productive and motivated. It is a “motivation molecule”.
Low levels can lead to lack of motivation, fatigue, mood swings, and memory loss. The world has popularized varied unhealthy ways of increasing dopamine levels. You don’t have to resort to “sex and drugs” to boost the dopamine levels.
Here are a few methods to boost the levels systematically.
1. Eating right, including consumption of healthy fruits, vegetables and mild beverages such as
tea or coffee.
3. Enjoying music
So, a strong coffee by the window with some close friends along with soothing music is a good idea!
What can leaders do?
Leaders can encourage healthy socialization at the workplace, by helping team members to channelize their thoughts, trying ways to communicate their stressors, and helping the team to deal with their own struggles, in non-judgmental ways. Dopamine is a mood boosting neurotransmitter that is released after you reach a goal for example, the feeling one gets after consuming specific substances, Endorphins on the other hand helps one to cope up with the pain and stress. It reduces stress and anxiety and prepares one for adaptation. It is produced by the pituitary gland.
The energy one experiences after a 30 minutes of exercises, or an intellectual activity after a physical activity has a better return. Low levels of endorphins increases the chances of dwelling into a specific sad or a stressful situation thereby increasing the chances of developing depression.
One can try the strategies below to regulate Endorphins in better ways:
1. Creating music or art
2. Dancing and laughing tends to increase the levels of endorphins and release stress.
3. Keeping oneself on the move
4. Getting outdoors
What can leaders do?
Failures, obstacles, challenges are inevitable. Leaders can help release their stress by engaging in non-routine activities frequently. Well planned activities, outdoors or indoors. Encouraging group members to take turns in mindful breaks from work. Lately, one of the most common diagnoses is depression. Hence, the hormone Melatonin is popular. An inadequate amount of melatonin generates apathy, ailment, depression (it is also the cause of hibernate depression, which many people complain). Melatonin, secreted by the pineal gland. It is a “youth hormone” related to the intensity of natural light. Sufficient exposure to natural daylight is recommended during the day, avoiding neon lights and diminishing light towards the end of the day to set the sleep cycle. Teenagers have low melatonin levels, which explain their desire to go to bed late and wake up late.
Here are few ways below:
1. Taking a break from technology
2. Cooling down at bedtime
3. Getting more sunlight
4. Having a restful sleep
5. Consumption of melatonin rich foods
What can leaders do?
To deal with stressful situations, leaders can engage themselves in healthy routines. Encouraging team members to go technology free, to encourage team discussions, activities to enhance life perspectives. One of the most important and well researched is the role of Serotonin. Present in significant quantities in leaders. It plays an important role in sleeping, mental, motor functions, in thermoregulation, in regulation of blood pressure. The levels are naturally high during the day and low towards the end of the day. It plays an important role in regulating mood too. A low level of serotonin is linked to anger and inclination towards violence.
What decreases the levels of serotonin?
1. Loss of a loved one
3. Absence of social, sexual, negative thoughts, etc.
What contributes to the levels of serotonin?
1. Active lives
2. Harmonious relationships
4. Healthy nutrition.
5. Eating right food
6. Breaking a sweat daily
7. Spending time in nature
Research has shown that it is found in weak quantities in the delinquent body and significant quantities to leaders. People who are clinically depressed often have very low levels of serotonin.
What can leaders do?
Many interactions involve handling varied personalities. Leaders can apply meditative techniques to identify their own moods, triggers and insecurities. They can understand their own state of mind in every possible situation and work effectively towards personal and group performance. Further, one of the most interesting hormones is the Oxytocin, referred to as “tendon hormone”, especially present in the body of women. It is also present in men, playing a role in sperm transport and production of testosterone. But, little is known about the physiology associated with this hormone. It is favored by sexual intercourse, pregnancy in women, and active social relationships. Oxytocin plays an important role in social interactions, reproduction, and formation of mother child relationship and stimulates lactation. It is also called a “love hormone”, which builds feelings of empathy, generosity and balancing inter-human ties.
The levels increase when one develops affection towards someone which helps in strengthening bonds.
Here are few ways:
2. Listening to music or making your own tunes
3. Spending time with friends
4. Meditation and making meaningful conversations
5. Sharing feelings boosts the levels of oxytocin
6. Playing with animals
7. Appreciating self and others
What can leaders do?
The levels of Oxytocin are higher in leaders. Leaders have a strong capability to work with people, to lead and to build success along with a team. Leaders can find opportunities to improve interactions with their team members, and can work on applying mindful techniques to improve decision making.
Hormones and Self love
In order to make the world a better place to live in, it is vital to take care of one’s own self, first! It has been proven time and again that psychology and physiology are intertwined. Hormones and emotions are interdependent. The levels of hormone secretion differ person to person. Although situations are unpredictable, one can observe his/ her own behavior and can make efforts to identify triggers. Knowing thy emotions is crucial. What makes me angry? What puts me off? What makes me cry? And what makes me sad? When do I feel insecure or feel fearful? When should I share? What makes me jealous?
One can build his or her own strengths and rework on their areas of improvements. To become an artist, to lead a team, to resolve life issues or to become an entrepreneur.
Acceptance, ownership and motivation to succeed are the first three important steps towards self-love, a part of self-care.
The hormones react naturally based one the presenting situations as a response to a stimulus. But, with practice an individual can control the levels of secretions by engaging in varied strategies to cope up with the difficult life situations. Overall, to improve one’s life productivity one can focus on self-growth and provide positive signals to the brain, everything then, is within your control!
Adrenaline gives energy, the cortisol protects in stressful situations, while the popular dopamine is a happiness hormone, and melatonin is the youth hormone. The oxytocin is a tendon and a love hormone, the serotonin contributes to peaceful sleep, while the endorphins helps us to be pain free. Continuous research into the role of hormones and their actions remind us that biological processes are closely related to psychological processes, forming an interdependent and complex mechanism where only one element can gravely affect one's functioning.
Long story short, hormones are chemicals produced by specific glands. Each has their own secretion store. Situations and one’s own experiences bring in emotions and every emotion triggers hormone secretions. The center of all emotions is located in the limbic system. Emotions are decoded biochemically and labeled as pleasant and unpleasant. Based on the experiences, the specific hormone is secreted. Depending upon the intensity and frequency the manifestation is either through mental stress or physical stress.
They play an important role for the entire human body, care of sleep, influence growth and development and are responsible for our mental state.
Overall, the researchers stress upon the importance of being emotionally intelligent. Managing, identification, assessing and regulating, controlling emotions contributes towards a mentally and a physically fit life. It is vital to introduce emotional intelligence in early development in children, adolescents, young adults and adults.
The new age leader!
The core of handling human relationships is to understand their behaviors, the reasons and the purpose. Leaders can function more effectively if they consider the crux of social interactions, the role of emotions that influence behavior and build mindfulness. Team building, inter and intra personal relationships, coaching, peer learning, training and development, enhancement of human resources all emphasize on the role of emotional intelligence. The relationship of hormones and leadership is strong.
A leader himself has the power to transform the group towards mindful thinking, emphasizing on self-care, mental health, and the role of professionals to seek support. A leader who gives importance to self-care, in turn reflects self-growth and further facilitates every team member to bring in best learning outcomes.