10 Healthy Ways to Process Negative Emotions
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” -Buddha
I had a crap moment last week.
I was feeling shitty, down, and generally frustrated with the unfairness of life. Then I spiraled into guilt about feeling this way because I want to walk my walk. And, I’m the Queen of Positivity and have so much to be grateful for.
My feelings won, and I had myself a good old pity party. Then, I felt much better.
I was able to dust myself off, learn something from how I felt, and ironically ended up feeling grateful (ha) for what my feelings had taught me.
Later the same week, I talked with two friends who were feeling angry and frustrated. They were ashamed for feeling that way, too (oh, the synchronicity of life).
“I know I should be positive.”
“I know I should be grateful and savor, but it’s hard, you know”
“I know I need to feel good for other people.”
When did positivity and happiness become the emotional bullies?
Yes, I want to maximize happiness, my own and others. And, yes, I fully subscribe to the science behind positivity, happiness, and the myriad ways in which it benefits our lives.
But, that doesn’t mean our other emotions aren’t valid and don’t serve a purpose. It doesn’t mean they should be ignored. In fact, I think they are essential to our overall happiness.
Hear me out.
Our emotions act as a compass. When we feel good and are generally happy, we know our compass is pointed in the right direction. When, however, we feel these so-called negative emotions of anger, sadness, and frustration, our compass is telling us we’re off course and something's not right.
Furthermore, our emotions need to be processed.
When we suppress our emotions, we set ourselves up for other problems.
That stomachache you have? The cold you can’t seem to kick? The unassuming stranger you honked at for driving too slowly? Even those pounds you can’t seem to drop; there is a good chance those are all linked to suppressed, unprocessed emotions. Suppressing our emotions is even linked to the development of heart disease and cancer. Click here to learn more
“In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity. Such reactions undoubtedly stem from our culture's overriding bias toward positive thinking. Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time. In fact, 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.”
-Tori Rodriguez, Atlanta-based Psychotherapist. Read more from Tori Rodriguez here.
If that weren’t enough, our relationships suffer when we suppress our emotions. Communication breaks down, often leading to resentment.
When we allow ourselves to process our emotions, they often pass much faster. We are able to sift through what we need to notice and possibly change, setting us up to take action and make change. Which takes us out of victimhood, and you guessed it, leads us to feeling back in control and happier.
So, you’re feeling pissy, cranky, sad or frustrated?
Here are ten healthy ways to process Negative emotions:
- Scream. Seriously scream. Get into your car, get on the highway where no one will know the difference, and just scream. Or scream into a pillow.
- Punch something, preferably not a person. Grab that pillow you screamed into or head to the gym with your boxing gloves and punch your anger out.
- Get physical and work up a sweat. I have my best, fastest runs when I’m PISSED. Added bonus, this raises your serotonin levels, which is helpful if you’re feeling sad or annoyed.
- Write a letter to the person you are upset or angry with. Let it all out. Then burn the letter.
- Talk it out. Once you’re feeling rational, talk it out with the person who has triggered you. Communication can create miracles.
- Make a pissed off list. An awesome woman I coach started making a pissed off list to go with her daily gratitude. She writes down three things she is pissed about each day. Name it so you can claim it and change it.
- Talk it out with a friend or loved one. Let them know ahead of time that you need an ear and just want to vent and aren’t looking for advice.
- Go for a walk and change up your scenery. This gives us room to think and process. And, a change of place and pace can give us a different perspective.
- Do something nice for yourself. This is self-care at it’s best.
- Cry. Crying can have health benefits, like removing the chemicals that raise cortisol (the stress hormone). Read more about the benefits of crying here.
How do you process your negative emotions? Jump down to the comments section and let me know.