Anger, frustration, fear, and other “negative emotions” are all part of the human experience. They can all lead to stress and are often seen as emotions to be avoided, ignored, or otherwise disavowed, but they can actually be healthy to experience. A better approach is to manage them without denying them, and there are several reasons for this.
Anger, fear, resentment, frustration, and anxiety are negative emotional states that many people experience regularly but try to avoid. And this is understandable — they are designed to make us uncomfortable. These negative emotional states can create extra stress in your body and your mind. This is uncomfortable but also can lead to health issues if the stress becomes chronic or overwhelming (I know first hand). The one thing we often forget in our negative moments is that they can be beneficial.
More often, these feelings are beneficial because they can also send us messages. For example:
- Anger and anxiety show that something needs to change and that perhaps our well-being has been threatened.
- Fear is an appeal to increase your level of safety.
- Frustration or resentment motivates us to change something in a relationship.
Basically, negative emotions are there to alert us that something needs to change and to motivate us to make that change.
Psychologists also argue that while there are many benefits to positive emotional states like hope, joy, and gratitude, there are also negative effects that can come from them. Optimism, for example, has been linked to many beneficial outcomes for health and happiness as well as personal success. Unchecked optimism, however, can lead to unrealistic expectations and even dangerous risks that can lead to loss and all of the negative feelings that can come with it. More uncomfortable emotional states like anxiety, however, can lead to motivation to make changes that can create more success and avoid danger.
You can clearly see between these two state that ‘balance” plays a very big role in the conscious life. So just what to we do?
This involves envisioning—you guessed it—your best possible self and what that would look like. This exercise has been shown to lift the mood and bring a sense of optimism, both of which bring lasting benefits.6 This exercise can be done as a journaling exercise or simply a visualization technique, but basically involves envisioning your life in the future and challenging yourself to imagine the best possible life you can live, the best possible version of yourself that you can be. This can be a meditation exercise of just a few minutes of productive thought. Research has shown that people who engage in envisioning their best self for five minutes a day for two weeks experience a more positive mood and an increase in optimism compared to people who spent the same amount of time simply thinking about activities in their day. For five minutes a day, this is a great use of time.
To sum it up in a simple method we can all practice – be grateful. Expressions of gratitude bring great benefits to the recipients, but even greater ones to the person expressing the gratitude. Most people who engage in this activity report that they still feel positive feelings from it days or even weeks later. We have many things to be grateful for, we simply need to bravely embrace things just as they are and grow from there.
Peace and Love, Jim