It seems that people are often confused between a positive attitude and having negative emotions. The other day I posted a story regarding how negativity reinforces and promotes negativity. The general overview of the article was, “if you keep your mind focused on the negatives of a situation, you will actually begin to hone in on them and spot them fairly easily and without much effort. It has been discovered that neurons that fire together wire together. Perhaps this can best be understood when thinking about habitual behavior. When you do something over and over again it comes a habit. As with any skill the more you practice it the better you get at it. Also it becomes an automatic behavior. What is really happening is that our brains, that love patterns by the way, have begun to form habitual behavior. That being said, it may not be easy to change at first. There are many variables involved. The good news is that it’s possible! This is one of my favorite subjects, self-directed Neuroplasticity. Simply stated, you can change your thought patterns, eliminate limitations and create a new way of being for yourself.
I have a few simple solutions for combatting the negativity bug. First and foremost is a gratitude list. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It is and will always help to bring us back to the understanding that all is not lost. I also like to start my day with a brief overview of my plan for the day. What will I be doing? What is my desired outcome? How will I benefit from that? This last part is very important for me because we know that plans can go awry. When I keep myself focused on the desired outcome I see that sometimes it happens in ways I hadn’t scripted. Actually, sometimes even better than I had planned. But, if I’m so focused on the fact that my plan is falling apart I may not see the opportunities for a better outcome that are present. The most important pieces are to be aware and modify your behavior. If you notice that you’re starting to ‘go there’ stop yourself. Choose instead to notice what is right about the situation.
I’ve mentioned before that there had been a tragedy over the summer. The first thing my family and I did when the dust began to settle is to say over and over again, to ourselves and each other, there must be some good in this situation. Each time we came across a good point we would share it with each other. It sounds as though it was quite scripted and practiced but it wasn’t. This has become a habit and the way we, as a family, deal with interruptions in our lives. Interestingly enough it seemed to have lessened the impact of the event. I’ve found this positive outlook to lessen the negatives in a variety of situations. Recently I wasn’t feeling well and at first I spent a lot of time focusing on how badly I felt.
Every ache was under my analysis. Like anything else when you put it under the microscope it becomes bigger than it really is. It didn’t take me long to catch on and I started focusing on how marvelous my body is, how it has combatted some pretty serious illnesses and still has bounced back. I chose to look at how healthy I really am. What do you think happened after my change of thinking? Yes, I felt better! My body ached less and when I changed those little thoughts the bigger ones about how long, etc. changed or were no longer on my radar. This is the difference being more positive can bring to your life.
Regarding negative emotions, I think it’s probably best to first ascertain what it is I’m referring to here. If you are going through a break up or divorce there are bound to be a variety of emotions even if you are the one that initiated the process. When I was getting divorced, I had been the one to leave. I suggested the divorce and as a result my life improved hugely. My financial situation improved greatly. Opportunities showed up! I bought my first luxury car. I began traveling internationally. I was taking classes and trainings all over the country. I lost weight. I felt so healthy. My world opened up. There was so much joy and excitement for each and every new thing. I was also for the first time in my life living alone, no husband or children. Life was an adventure. Every now and again I would experience waves of anger, deep sadness and even more odd was a sense of jealousy. From the outsiders perspective anyone would say that was absurd. My life was fun, flowing, adventurous and exciting. If one were trying to justify from a tangible point of view they would be hard pressed. What was that nagging feeling that intruded on my joy from time to time.
I had been attempting to ignore the sense of loss. I was telling myself that life was so great that I couldn’t feel bad. The two didn’t go together in my mind. What was more obvious to me is that because I had initiated, paid for and filed for the divorce I didn’t have the right to have any negative emotions around it. To coin a phrase, I had made my bed and I was going to lay in it with my mouth zipped shut! This made things difficult at times. I couldn’t explain why I would get off the airplane and from a great trip to the Caribbean only to come home and cry while I isolated myself from others. I didn’t know what was going on with me. Life was great, better than I had ever even imagined it to be. It was magical! I was not allowing myself to experience the emotions that came from the loss of a primary relationship. My hopes and dreams for the next 60 plus years were gone. There was a lot of excitement in the discovery of who I was when I was just me. But I was not acknowledging the loss of the me I’d been for all of those years.
There are many suppositions that suppressing negative emotions leads to anxiety disorders, emotional outbursts not fitting the situation and even disease.
One study conducted by psychologists from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that suppressing emotions may increase the risk of dying from heart disease and certain forms of cancer. This confirms earlier studies that have linked negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and depression to the development of heart disease. Excerpt from Keeping Your Emotions Bottled Up Could Kill You by Tim Gustafson, R.D.
According to psychotherapist and writer Tori Rodriguez ,”Anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment. Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being.”
How does one allow themselves to have negative emotions without holding onto them? The environment in which many people grew up it wasn’t acceptable to express emotions such as sadness, overt excitement or happiness, and least of all anger with a parent. As a result many people repressed these or would refrain until there was a loss of control, e.g. rage. I have a few favorites that I find to be most effective. Breathing through the emotion. Using this technique I review experiences as they come up allowing myself to be there completely. I pay attention to every detail giving this experience my fullest attention. When the emotions begin to flow take nice deep breathes and allow them to move through your body fully and completely. The key here is not to interact with them. Don’t stifle or exaggerate them by inner conversation. Just let them flow.
Another one of my favorites (especially for anger) is to write on a piece of paper. Use just one sheet and forget about being neat. This is anger after all and anger is not neat and tidy! Write what your angry about and all that it entails. Write about it until you feel completely drained of it. More often than not you won’t be able to decipher the words from one another. It may look like a page of scribbles. That is perfect! When you have finished. Tear the paper into small pieces and dispose of them. I like to burn them but of course make sure you’re being safe. Sometimes that anger has a tendency to linger a bit and fire is a perfect avenue of escape. I find this particular exercise works well with a variety of self-discovery issues such as, limiting beliefs, self-hatred and self-esteem issues.
Lastly, awareness is key. Rather than waiting or uncovering at a later time emotions to be experienced, tune into yourself. What are these emotions trying to tell you? Are they just a remembrance from a similar situation or are they letting you know that you aren’t safe, someone is crossing healthy boundaries or that you need to take care of yourself. If someone is asking you to do something that you’re not comfortable with then say as much or decline completely if necessary. Very often people will leave the responsibility for themselves to another. Hoping that your boss will put your needs above their own or that of the company’s can be a bit of a long shot. Also it doesn’t behoove you to hand over your power to others. Being aware of what you are feeling will lead to why you’re feeling it and this is a whole other level of self-discovery.
Have you tried any of the above exercises? How did they work for you? Have you always been clear on the difference between negative emotions and being negative? I’d love to hear about it. Please feel free to comment below, private message me or share if this blog has brought you value.