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Why You Should Always Embrace Negative Emotions

Why You Should Always Embrace Negative Emotions

One of the biggest misperceptions about personal development is that it leads to permanent, unflappable happiness. The point of personal development isn’t to feel happy all the time. Instead, it’s to become more aware of what we’re feeling and to have greater self-mastery over how we respond to our feelings.

The truth is that so-called “negative” emotions are important. Here’s why:

Negative emotions are a natural part of life

Just as the colours of the rainbow run from one end of a spectrum to the other, so do our emotions. We might prefer the experience of certain emotions, but whether we like it or not they will all show up at certain points. Although we can influence our emotions, we can’t control them and we certainly can’t get rid of our less desirable feelings on demand.

In Buddhism, one of the Four Noble Truths is that pain exists, but suffering is optional. Another way of understanding this is to use the equation:

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Suffering = Pain x Resistance

The more we resist negative emotions, the more we will suffer. We are going to feel negative emotions, whether we like it or not. Although it sounds counterintuitive, accepting them means we’re less likely to suffer.

Negative emotions are useful

Not only are negative emotions a natural part of life, but they are that way for a good reason. Fear, anger, hurt, rejection — all these feelings are useful emotional responses to certain situations. For example, fear helps us survive. Without fear, we’d be crossing the road without looking. We wouldn’t think twice about walking alone through a dodgy part of town in the middle of the night. We’d get ourselves into all kinds of physically dangerous situations.

Sometimes these feelings crop up in inopportune or unwanted situations. For example, we might feel the same kind of fear when we think about public speaking as we do when we imagine scaling Everest. The solution isn’t to never feel fear, though. Instead, it’s to learn how to manage it so it can serve it’s natural purpose.

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How to embrace negative emotions

1. Reframe them from “negative,” “bad,” or “unhelpful” to “uncomfortable.”

So-called negative feelings get a bad rap because they feel uncomfortable. Just because they feel uncomfortable, however, doesn’t mean they’re negative (remember, they’re actually helpful).

If you’re struggling to embrace negative emotions, reframe them as “uncomfortable.” With this, you acknowledge your feelings without sending yourself the message they are bad or wrong.

2. Separate out the feeling from the story or meaning you attach to it.

When we struggle to accept certain feelings, it’s usually because we’re attaching a story or meaning to the feeling.

“I feel jealous…and it’s wrong to feel jealous.

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“I’m feeling angry…and women shouldn’t feel angry.

If we’re harbouring these beliefs and stories, it’s hard to embrace our negative emotions. Notice the meanings and stories you’re attaching to your feelings. Then, separate your objective experience of the feeling from the meaning or story you’re attaching to it.

3. Allow yourself to truly feel the feeling.

Another counter-intuitive truth about feelings is the more we try to resist them, the stronger they get. If we let ourselves feel, however, the intensity dissapates.

Let the feeling wash over you. Feel the physical sensations that come with it and take a few deep breaths as you experience it. You might notice that even a few seconds of this is enough before the feeling fades.

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4. Get curious about the message in the feeling

All feelings happen for a reason. The reason might not be immediately obvious, nor might it be directly related to the present situation. But it will be there.

Instead of writing off negative emotions, practice asking “What is the lesson here? What can I learn from this experience?” Remember, negative emotions are your own internal warning system that something is off-kilter.

The more exploration you’re wiling to do, the more information you’ll have. Then, you can take action to right the balance and bring harmony back into your world.

Featured photo credit: angela n. via flickr.com

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Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on September 17, 2019

10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

10 Simple Ways To Always Think Positive Thoughts

Positive thinking can lead to a lot of positive change in your life. Developing an optimistic outlook can be good for both your physical and mental health.

But sometimes, certain situations arise in life that makes it hard to keep a positive outlook. Take steps to make positive thinking become more like your second nature and you’ll reap the biggest benefits.

Here are 10 ways to make thinking positive thoughts easy:

1. Spend Time with Positive People

If you surround yourself with constant complainers, their negativity is likely to rub off on you.

Spend time with positive friends and family members to increase the likelihood that their positive thinking habits will become yours too. It’s hard to be negative when everyone around you is so positive.

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2. Take Responsibility for Your Behavior

When you encounter problems and difficulties in life, don’t play the role of the victim. Acknowledge your role in the situation and take responsibility for your behavior.

Accepting responsibility can help you learn from mistakes and prevent you from blaming others unfairly.

3. Contribute to the Community

One of the best ways to feel good about what you have, is to focus on what you have to give.

Volunteer in some manner and give back to the community. Helping others can give you a new outlook on the world and can assist you with positive thinking.

4. Read Positive and Inspirational Materials

Spend time each day reading something that encourages positive thinking. Read the Bible, spiritual material, or inspirational quotes to help you focus on what’s important to you in life. It can be a great way to start and end your day.

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Some recommendations for you:

5. Recognize and Replace Negative Thoughts

You won’t be successful at positive thinking if you’re still plagued by frequent negative thoughts. Learn to recognize and replace thoughts that are overly negative. Often, thoughts that include words like “always” and “never” signal that they aren’t true.

If you find yourself thinking something such as, “I always mess everything up,” replace it with something more realistic such as, “Sometimes I make mistakes but I learn from them.”

There’s no need to make your thoughts unrealistically positive, but instead, make them more realistic.

6. Establish and Work Toward Goals

It’s easier to be positive about problems and setbacks when you have goals that you’re working toward. Goals will give you motivation to overcome those obstacles when you encounter problems along the way. Without clear goals, it’s harder to make decisions and gauge your progress.

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Learn to set SMART goals to help you achieve more.

7. Consider the Consequences of Negativity

Spend some time thinking about the consequences of negative thinking. Often, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, a person who thinks, “I probably won’t get this job interview,” may put less effort into the interview. As a result, he may decrease his chances of getting the job.

Create a list of all the ways negative thinking impacts your life. It likely influences your behavior, your relationships, and your feelings. Then, create a list of the ways in which positive thinking could be beneficial.

8. Offer Compliments to Others

Look for reasons to compliment others. Be genuine in your praise and compliments, but offer it frequently. This will help you look for the good in other people.

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9. Create a Daily Gratitude List

If you start keeping a daily gratitude list, you’ll start noticing exactly how much you have to be thankful for. This can help you focus on the positive in your life instead of thinking about all the bad things that have happened in the day.

Getting in the habit of showing an attitude of gratitude makes positive thinking more of a habit. Here’re 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

10. Practice Self-Care

Take good care of yourself and you’ll be more equipped to think positively.

Get plenty of rest and exercise and practice managing your stress well. Taking care of your physical and mental health will provide you with more energy to focus on positive thinking.

Learn about these 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit.

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Featured photo credit: DESIGNECOLOGIST via unsplash.com

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