How will someone appreciate sunshine if there are no rainy days? Will light matter if there is no darkness?
Negative emotions… They are there for a reason.
But what are negative emotions? Negative emotions are anything that make you feel sad or miserable. They bring your self-confidence down and hamper your inner peace and life satisfaction.
Are all negative emotions bad? Answer is no. In fact, all the negative emotions like anger, sadness, guilt, jealousy, hate in the right context are natural and good things.
Why do negative emotions affect us?
Negative emotions affect us mainly because of meta feelings. Meta feelings are the emotions that you feel for your other emotions.
The four major meta feelings are
Self-loathing – Feeling bad about bad emotions
Guilt – Feeling bad about good emotions
Self-righteousness – Feeling good about bad emotions and
Ego – Feeling good about good emotions.
When we feel meta feelings/emotions we often will find us caught in a spiral of emotions that we cannot get out of. Often, we start blaming others or self for the actions in the past and find ourselves sinking deep in a sea of regret.
One of the important reasons why we need to control our feelings before they control us is – Emotions are contagious. Even if you don’t know the other person, even if the communication is non-verbal, your emotions will affect others surrounding you and have a cascading effect.
Imagine you are on a flight. Suddenly the flight attendants start walking nervously towards the cockpit, even if they don’t make any statement or even make eye contact with passengers, their nervousness will be picked by the passengers which in turn cascades into panic.
Emotions cascade spirally. While positive emotions cascade in an upward spiral, negative emotions cascade in downward spiral, making the situation even more difficult.
So how to deal with negative emotions in general?
Remember the word “STOP” when you have negative emotions. This holds good for dealing with positive emotions as well.
S – STOP
Stop. Pause. Do not act based on the feelings you have in that moment.
T – THINK
Take a few moments and think why you are having these feelings.
O – OBSERVE
Observe what kind of changes are happening within you because of these feelings.
P – PLAN
Plan on how to help yourself overcome this feeling and what action that needs to be taken.
Above is not a permanent solution to overcome negative feelings. It is just to control your emotions before they control you.
To overcome your negative emotions, you have to understand the following.
1. Negative emotions are normal.
There is a huge notion that all negative emotions are bad. Ups and downs are common in life, the same is applicable for the emotions. Experiencing different emotions is a part of being human and it is unavoidable part of every person’s life.
2. Negative emotions do have a purpose.
Fear is considered to be a negative emotion. Fear is one of the primitive instincts humans have against danger. Similarly, without sadness one cannot overcome grief or loss. Anger is there to fight against the problems we have. Disgust is for rejecting things that are unhealthy. We need to identify the underlying purpose of these emotions and act on them.
3. Negative emotions are a warning sign.
When your life goes out of track, there will be warning signals all along to inform you of your emotions. Next time when you feel anxious, irritated or be afraid, take a moment to pause and figure out what it means. This is one of the body’s self-correcting mechanisms, that makes you decide the right thing for you.
4. Negative emotions give closure.
There are certain happenings in life which you won’t be able to overcome if not for negative emotions. It is sometimes ok to feel negative emotions. Grieve and be sad, let your anger out, cry or scream your heart out. Suppressing emotions has adverse effects, whereas experiencing them may give closure to your loss.
5. Negative emotions build resilience.
The more you acknowledge and understand how to act based on your emotions, the more resilient you become. This will help you become a better person in the longer run.
What are practical tips to cope with negative emotions?
1. Recognizing pain points
Understand what makes you emotionally overwhelmed. Think if you can find patterns. Plan how to respond to these common negative emotions.
2. Focus on what you can and cannot do.
In order to help yourself, you should understand what your limitations are. This will help to understand, what are all things you can deal yourself and what things need external or expert support to help you.
3. Writing a journal.
Journaling is one of the best tools that one can use for the betterment of self. Journaling helps you find your pain points and helps you to plan your course of action way ahead of time. It will help you to reflect on things where you went wrong.
4. Physical activity.
Indulging in physical activity. Studies suggest most people prefer cleaning while they are angry to come to their senses. Running or walking is also the best way to clear the mind.
5. Find something that is positive.
Any situation has a positive aspect to you. When you figure out what causes the negative emotion, you can slow down and think of positive outcomes from that situation.
6. Practice Gratitude.
This one sounds easier, but very difficult to practice. But replacing your negative emotion with a positive feeling will surely help. Think of things that you are grateful for, that should help you to deal with the situation positively.
Meditating can help in many things. It helps you practice self-control. It helps you to think clearly. When you meditate every day, you get peace of mind and you can make better decisions.
8. Let your emotions out.
It is ok to let your emotions out. Talk to a closed one. Let them know what you feel. If your negative emotions are caused by someone, confront them. Talking it out actually strengthens your relationships.
9. Let it go.
When too many things go on in your life, when it is too difficult to handle,call it a day. Let it go. Some emotions are not under our control. Practice forgiveness. Learn to forgive yourself and others.
Most of all, Breathe. Step out. Take a walk, inhale fresh air. Take deep breaths. Like every other moment, this moment shall pass too, so is the emotions associated with it.