The positive in feeling the negative
What if I told you that experiencing negative emotions such as sadness, anger and stress were good for you?
It may come as a surprise to some but, according to research, experiencing negative emotions is actually good for your mental health and wellbeing. We are often told, or led to believe, that in order to live a healthy, meaningful and fulfilling life, we need to rid ourselves of any negative thoughts, experiences or emotions. This expectation is unrealistic, and according to Dr Russ Harris (author of The Happiness Trap), in the pursuit of the 'happy life' we only create unnecessary stress and misery trying to achieve the impossible. Some of the most important things in our lives such as relationships, marriage, children, travel and careers are full of both positive and negative experiences. Riddled with the highs and the stressful lows.
It is impossible to avoid negative emotions altogether and attempting to suppress these thoughts and feelings can often backfire and cause more harm than good. The key is learning how to cope with these negative experiences and enhancing your emotional resilience.
Some steps in helping you deal with negative emotions more effectively can be to:
- Simply acknowledge and accept your emotions without immediately wanting to change the situation (remember that an emotion is simply a thought or feeling and nothing more);
- Increase your awareness through mindfulness and be open to experiencing all emotions without fighting against them;
- Focus on what is in your sphere of control; and
- Writing your emotions down or talking to someone can assist in reducing overwhelming feelings and allowing you to gain clarity or perspective on a situation.