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Duration: Emotional Half-Life (Day 83)

Today we're observing the duration of our emotional reactions – how long do they last?

Chances are, at first, you'll only realise that you're reacting when you're already well into it. Emotions are such an unconscious and knee-jerk phenomenon that we often don't even notice when they start, and then our attention gets all caught-up in the story/thoughts of the situation.🙉

But reactions do have a beginning, a middle/peak, and an end. And the initial chemical/physical 'hit' doesn't last as long as you might think – about 90 seconds.

"When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90-second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.”

“Something happens in the external world, and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body, it takes less than 90 seconds. This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away.”

“After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological reaction, over and over again.”

Jill Bolte-Taylor, Harvard neuroscientist

It'll take some skill-building before that 90-second window is useful to us, but that's why we're practicing! 💪


When you notice yourself reacting, see if you can get a sense of how long it's been going on, and how much longer it might last. Try making a prediction as to when you might be done reacting. As you're measuring the duration of a reaction, also notice any changes in intensity.

When you're reacting, focus on your deliberate breath.

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