Are you often overwhelmed by negative emotions like stress, anger and sadness? I know I am! When we’re caught up in negative emotions, it can be difficult to think clearly. We may end up getting caught in a spiral of negativity which is hard to break out of.
So how can we escape from this cycle and start feeling human again? I think the solution may lie in spirituality.
What is spirituality?
Before you shut this tab, hear me out. Many people have preconceived notions of what spirituality is – you may think it’s about religion, or even the occult! But it doesn’t necessarily involve either of those things.
It’s hard to define what spirituality is, as it’s more something you feel. If I had to describe it in words, I’d say it’s about compassion and connection. This applies to the way we treat both ourselves and others. But how can this help us to beat negative emotions? Let’s take a look.
(Please note that I don’t intend this post to be medical advice. If you have a severe mental health problem like depression, please talk to your doctor.)
I know this sounds cheesy, but it really works. When I’m upset, I sometimes know exactly what I need to do to make myself feel better. But sometimes the temptation to wallow in misery is just too great. However, you’ll feel a whole lot better if you get off the sofa and tend to your emotions – just like you would a physical injury.
Here are some example ways of practicing self-care:
- Relax in a hot bath
- Have a mug of tea or hot chocolate
- Go for a walk in a beautiful place
- Make a fuss of your pet (it will boost their mood too!)
- Engage in a creative activity you enjoy, such as painting or playing a musical instrument
- Change into your favourite comfy clothes
- Watch a video or movie that makes you laugh
- Phone a loved one
- Do some gentle exercise
I suggest doing as many of these as you feel capable of. If you can think of any more which aren’t on the list, great! Do them too.
Be patient with yourself
When we get caught up in negativity, we often have toxic thoughts about ourselves. We may think we’re useless, a failure, unlovable and so on. It’s important to combat these thoughts before they get out of hand.
Maybe your boss wasn’t happy with the work you did today, and you’re beating yourself up over it. Take a step back from the situation and view it objectively. Then create some new thoughts such as these.
“Nobody does their best work everyday – I’ll do better tomorrow.”
“My boss wasn’t insulting me personally, just giving me constructive criticism so I can improve.”
“My boss wasn’t happy, but that doesn’t mean my work was bad. That was just her opinion – it’s subjective. ”
It’s helpful to write down these new thoughts and refer to them whenever you catch yourself thinking toxic thoughts.
Boost your self-esteem by writing a list of your positive traits. Try to turn your negative thoughts around. For example, the other day I found myself thinking I was a failure for dropping out of university. So I reminded myself that I’d had the courage to pursue my passions rather than do what everyone else thought I should do. That’s not a negative trait!
Keep your list somewhere safe, and read over it every time you have negative thoughts about yourself.
Put negative emotions in perspective
Last week, Pinterest mistakenly suspended my account due to “spam”. They informed me I wouldn’t be able to access my account ever again, or create a new one. I was very upset, since I’d spent hours working on my account.
Intending to vent my frustrations in a blogging group, I opened Facebook. But the first thing I saw was a post from a friend who had a transplant a few years back. She’d just found out her transplant was failing and she’d need a new one.
I suddenly felt ashamed of the fuss I was making over a relatively small issue. Why was I so upset when I’m so very lucky? I have a loving family and boyfriend, wonderful friends, a roof over my head and food in the cupboards. My health is excellent and I get to spend my days doing what I love.
Knowing that others are worse off doesn’t invalidate your experience. It sucks that you’re upset, and you should always tend to your emotions rather than brushing them off by saying “I’m fine, other people have it much worse.” But thinking about what you do have rather than what you don’t can boost your mood and help to put things in perspective.
Don’t hate, meditate!
Meditation is probably the most powerful tool we have for beating negative emotions. You don’t have to sit still for 20 minutes with your eyes shut to get some of the benefits of meditation.
Next time you feel overwhelmed with negative emotions, try taking some deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Put on some calming music if it helps you, and shut your eyes if you like. If you can’t stand sitting still, try yoga or a moving meditation. And if you feel intimidated by meditation in general, try contemplation instead. There’s no need to shut your eyes – just let your mind wander and see where it takes you. Allow yourself to have pleasant daydreams and look forward to the future.
Meditating regularly can prevent so many negative emotions from arising in the first place. Research shows that those who meditate experience a variety of benefits, both physical and mental. Why not start today?
Everything happens for a reason
I personally believe the universe throws challenges our way for a reason. You don’t have to believe this, but you can still look for the silver lining in negative situations.
In the case of the aforementioned incident with my Pinterest account, I did just that. I realised I’d been neglecting some other blog-related tasks in favour of Pinterest; it was the ideal opportunity to work on those instead.
I also realised I’d been pouring so much energy into blogging that I was starting to feel burnt out. Maybe the universe was telling me to take a step back? I took a day off, and felt much better as a result. (In case you were wondering, Pinterest reactivated my account a couple of days later.)
Again, looking on the bright side doesn’t mean denying that you’re suffering. It just means accepting that things are rarely all bad or all good. Of course, it’s different if you’ve had a highly distressing or traumatic experience. In this case, it probably isn’t possible (or even advisable) to look for a silver lining.
Get out in nature
In the modern world, most of us have the illusion that we’re separate from nature. But we are nature, so no wonder our mental health suffers when we try to separate ourselves from it.
I’ve already described going for a walk in a beautiful place as a form of self-care. When we stay indoors all day, our minds often become stagnant, stuck in the same negative mental state. We’re like wild animals held captive (I previously wrote a post on whether humans are in captivity).
As soon as you step out of your front door, you’ll likely feel more alive. I believe fresh air is really important. Like our minds, the air indoors becomes stagnant. Moving our bodies is also vital – research shows that exercise greatly improves mood.
Being in a beautiful place has the power to improve mood, as I discussed in my post on green spaces. You may even find it easier to meditate in a natural setting. If you live in an urban area, a nice park will do.
It’s amazing how healing the sounds of rushing water, wind and birdsong can be. Try it out for yourself. And don’t let the rain stop you from enjoying the outdoors – get some waterproofs and go outside every single day! Your mind and body will thank you.
Connect with others
We’re all connected, no more separate from each other than we are from nature. Try talking to a loved one about whatever is bothering you. Sometimes all you need is for someone to listen.
If someone’s upset you or made you angry, see if you can forgive them. Remember they’re human, and they make mistakes. This doesn’t excuse their negative actions, but it may make those actions more understandable. If you can truly let go of your anger, you’ll feel a whole lot better. I appreciate that this is easier said than done, and it takes time and practice.
Finally, being kind to others can also improve mental health. Helping my mum declutter and helping my brother with homework has always boosted my mood. Random acts of kindness are another great way of doing this. You can also try volunteering or joining a community group to connect with others. Sometimes we don’t realise we’re lonely until we aren’t anymore.
I didn’t mean for this to be such an essay! If you read the whole thing, I’m so grateful and I hope it was helpful. See my post on calming our restless minds for more on this topic.
P.S. I’m away at the moment – I scheduled this post last week. Though I don’t currently have Internet access, I’d love to hear your thoughts and will reply to comments when I get back on Monday. See you then!