The key to managing negative emotions is to first connect to the emotion.
Without judging, shaming, hiding from, lashing out at, or resisting the uncomfortable moment that has presented itself. A simple way to describe mindfulness is to become an “objective observer” of the present moment. Being mindful leads to truthful, authentic living. It is the first step in transforming our negative emotions and creating a better future.
When we deal honestly with our emotions, we can extend compassion to ourselves. Self-compassion requires taking a balanced, mindful approach to our negative emotions so that our feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Mindfully experiencing a negative emotion does not mean you don’t prefer, hope for, or work toward something better. It is not a passive approach to life. Rather, being mindful allows us to experience hard moments such as conflict, stress or failure—to learn and grow from these experiences—rendering them less acute and more manageable. And more, it helps us work through our afflictions so that we begin to experience the whole of life in a more productive way.
The “Undoing” Effect of Positive Emotions
Negative emotions are part of life. Some I call “authentic”—inspiring change and leading to growth. Some I call “counterfeit” —debilitating us, resulting in useless stress and suffering. Once you have made the distinction between authentic and counterfeit, the next step in “undoing” a negative emotion is to intentionally cultivate a positive emotion(s) to take its place. Research on the “undoing effect” of positive emotions suggests that people can improve their psychological wellbeing, and perhaps also their physical health, by evoking positive emotions at opportune moments to cope with negative emotions. Inducing a positive emotion may loosen the hold that a negative emotion has gained on a person’s mind and body. For example, if you are feeling rejected after learning someone else got the promotion you wanted, you can cultivate the emotion (and character strength) of gratitude as you intentionally focus on the positive aspects of your life.
Mindfulness helps us learn to self-regulate and to bring our best selves to the forefront—strengthening our emotional health, our relationships with others, and ultimately making us more productive, successful and content.
“To merge character strengths and mindfulness is to bring a deep awareness to our best qualities and to use these qualities to improve our awareness of all aspects of our lives. Mindfulness and character strengths deepen one another. To practice using character strengths with mindfulness is to be intentional and conscious about noticing and deploying your best qualities.”
— Dr. Ryan M. Niemiec