Episode 26: Dr Joan Rosenberg


The 90 second hack to build rock-solid confidence and resilience

HealthHackers Ep 26 with psychologist Dr Joan Rosenberg.


No time to watch the video? Below is the Soundcloud audio podcast version. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts to get the audio on your iPhone here.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • how to ride the biochemical rushes in your bloodstream to become mentally stronger

  • why you should lean into your most unpleasant feelings

  • what to do when you’re worried about what others think of you

  • the singularly most important thing we can all do to grow ourselves, according to Dr Joan

  • the positive rewards that come from being your authentic self

  • what Dr Joan believes is at the root of all anxiety

  • plus, the two biggest and most common mistakes she sees people making with their emotional health


The Rosenberg Reset

The next time you feel yourself getting angry, sad or embarrassed - see how long that initial surge of overwhelming emotion lasts.

Chances are, it won’t be any longer than 90 seconds - and that’s because neuroscientists suggest the biological lifespan of a feeling lasts for roughly one and a half minutes.

Dr Joan Rosenberg has 35 years’ experience helping people achieve emotional mastery

Dr Joan Rosenberg has 35 years’ experience helping people achieve emotional mastery

And according to psychologist and author of ’90 Seconds to a Life You Love,’ Dr Joan Rosenberg, it’s what you choose to do within that small window that can either lead you to developing “rock solid confidence” or take you down “a path of distraction and disconnection,” to what she calls “soulful depression.”

Using her 35 years of experience in helping both clients and fellow clinicians to achieve emotional mastery, Dr Joan came up with a technique that encourages you to ride the waves of your most uncomfortable feelings and transform them into inner strength.

The method was affectionately nicknamed ‘The Rosenberg Reset’, by one of her colleagues, she told me in HealthHackers episode 26.

“Think of it as a formula… one choice, eight feelings and 90 seconds,” Dr Joan explained.

The one choice is: awareness or avoidance. According to Dr Joan, you can lean into your difficult feelings, or you can try to ignore them.

She encourages you to opt for the former, which means acknowledging what exactly it is that you’re experiencing from her list of eight feelings:

Anger, sadness, shame, helplessness, embarrassment, disappointment, frustration and vulnerability.

Those feelings tend to trigger undesirable physical effects we all dread; hot red cheeks, a flushed neck or a churning stomach.

This is where the 90 seconds bit comes in.

“All you need to do is to tolerate your bodily sensations to be able to stay more present to the feeling itself.”

“The biochemicals flush out of the blood steam in roughly 90 seconds,” she told me.

Staying present to the feelings also means you don’t try and distract yourself by binge eating, smoking or drinking - behaviours she’s seen in some of her clients.

Let’s say for example, you’re afraid of introducing yourself to new people - you get embarrassed, feel vulnerable and frustrated. 

“Those moments that you might feel embarrassed by taking the initiative are only going to last roughly up to 90 seconds” - Dr Joan Rosenberg

“Those moments that you might feel embarrassed by taking the initiative are only going to last roughly up to 90 seconds” - Dr Joan Rosenberg

One day, you find yourself at a networking event and your biochemical rush of uncomfortable emotions and bodily sensations (fast beating heart, sweaty palms) have already begun in full force. 

Dr Joan suggests you ask yourself: “Ok, what’s difficult for me here? What feelings do I have the hardest time time with? ‘Oh, I don’t want to be embarrassed, I don’t want to feel vulnerable.”

Her advice is to go for it, meet new people and don’t hang back.

“Be aware that those moments that you might feel embarrassed by taking the initiative are only going to last roughly up to 90 seconds” - sometimes even less.

And if you introduce yourself to someone new and it all goes awry?

The key is that you keep persisting with the Rosenberg Reset. Dr Joan compares it with learning how to swim. It’s a skill - “you don’t give up after one trial,” she told me.

Dr Joan’s book says: “Confidence develops when you have the deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you pursue.”

“The more you are able to face the pain you experience, the more capable you become.”

Being able to speak up is a crucial part of Dr Joan’s route to unwavering self-esteem and emotional mastery. 

She believes it is “singularly the most important thing that we do to grow ourselves.”

I asked Dr Joan what disadvantages there might be for those who prefer not to push themselves forward and who would rather go through life letting everyone else do the talking.

“They will never pursue the things they want to pursue. It’s an unrealised life,” she told me.

In fact, drawing on her three decades of experience, Dr Joan said “backing away from feeling and backing away from speaking up” are the biggest and most common mistakes people making with their emotional health.

But if you can learn to withstand those key eight feelings (listed above) for 90 seconds at a time, “you are headed into a life that feels fully lived and expressed - a life of your own design,” her book explains.

Anxiety, she says, is “a cover for unpleasant feelings,” suggesting we should look deeper to see which of the eight feelings are underneath and apply the Rosenberg Reset.

Anxiety, Dr Joan believes, is “a cover for unpleasant feelings”

Anxiety, Dr Joan believes, is “a cover for unpleasant feelings”

Fear of judgement is another bugbear for many people, but according to Dr Joan, worrying what others think of you is all about vulnerability (also one of the key eight emotions). 

“Any time you catch yourself wondering what someone else is thinking about you, turn it around and go: ‘Oh I’m feeling vulnerable. I can ride the waves of being vulnerable. I can tolerate the feeling outcome of putting myself in situations that, before, I thought were hard.’”

By repeating the Rosenberg Reset steps over and over again, the book promises you will be able to let go of critical self-talk while “unwavering confidence and emotional strength will become your new normal.”

Since interviewing Dr Joan; I’ve been applying the Rosenberg Reset to some uncomfortable scenarios in my day-to-day life.

I had a nervous experience while driving and immediately wondered which of the eight feelings were causing my stress. Once I had it figured out, I just kept reminding myself mentally: “This will be over in 90 seconds, it’s just 90 seconds until I feel OK.” 

I felt fine again almost instantly and will definitely keep practising this method.

As Dr Joan said: “Any time something’s evoked in us that feels uncomfortable just understand that we can stay present to it and it’s going to subside.”

Read more about Dr Joan’s methods for achieving emotional mastery in her new book, ’90 Seconds to a Life You Love.’

Visit her website, or follow her on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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