To be human means to be emotional. We’re wired to seek what gives us positive emotions and avoid anything that triggers negative emotions.
The reality is that no human can avoid negative emotion indefinitely. All humans will experience negative emotions throughout their lives, no matter how lucky, privileged, or successful a person might seem.
While you can’t necessarily eliminate all past, current, and future experiences of negative emotion from your life, you can at least learn to free yourself from it by using healthy techniques to bring balance back to your emotional state. So next time life throws you a curve ball, try these tips.
1. Take a Step Back Before You React
When something goes wrong, most people react to it immediately. Reacting, however, enables your negative emotions and thoughts to feed off of each other, essentially driving you to make poorly decided actions that could potentially make things worse. It takes a lot of practice to mindfully take a step back in the eye of a storm, but it’s the only way to avoid getting sucked deeper into negativity. Having a daily mindfulness practice can help.
2. Breathe Through the Discomfort
When negative emotions sweep you up into the vortex of thought, you can ground yourself simply by paying attention to your breath. In fact, this is a great thing to do instead of reacting immediately to a negative event or experience. Take a moment—even if it’s just a few seconds—to tune into your breath before deciding what to do next.
3. Allow Yourself to Observe and Feel
Reality doesn’t exactly make it convenient at any given time for you to tune into your emotions for as long as you need to, but you can always make time later to reflect on what happened and let yourself feel everything you need to feel. Unfortunately for most people, they often choose to simply suppress it and avoid acknowledging it again. But what you resist will continue to persist, so make time to meditate on what you’re feeling and release that negative energy.
4. Ask Yourself What You Can Learn
There is at least one lesson (but possibly several) to be learnt in every negative experience. Your emotions often pull you away from seeing the lesson, which is often what most people fall victim to when their emotions are fresh. Over time, however, awareness sets in and a lesson is learned. You can speed up this process by consciously deciding to look for the lesson sooner rather than later, which will naturally help you see the positive side of things even when the darkness is still very thick.
5. Find Something to Be Grateful For
Gratitude is the most basic and most universal way to instantly generate positive feelings. Whatever you can be grateful for—your family, your health, or the lesson itself—make yourself as aware of it as you possibly can. A great way to do this is by journaling in a gratitude journal.
6. Remember That You Are Not Alone
Other than the friends and relatives you have to help you through your negative emotions, remember that you are not the only person in the world to be going through whatever you might be going through right now. Countless others have before you, and the majority of them get through it. If you can connect with someone else who has gone through what you’re going through, you may be able to get more specialized empathy, support, and perhaps advice too.
7. Remind Yourself You Won’t Feel This Way Forever
Weeks, months, and years from now, you’ll look back on where you are now and you’ll be grateful for what you learned about life and about yourself. It always feels the worst in the moment, but trust that these negative feelings are only temporary. No matter how bad things seem, you will experience joy, love, and peace once again—this time as a stronger and more whole version of yourself.