Earlier this week I wrote about decluttering the home – today I’m looking at decluttering the mind: of negative emotions.
We all experience difficult situations and, if we’re human, we’ll sometimes have negative emotions in response to those situations. Like many things in life, it’s how we respond that influences the possible outcomes. Today I’ll be looking at how to process those emotions, so our minds are freed up to work on the things that are productive and positive in our lives.
A couple of weeks ago in relaying her day, my 5 year old told me that she had been jealous of someone, but didn’t want to share the details. I was surprised that she knew what jealousy was and couldn’t figure out what it could have been. By chance, one of her teachers caught me a couple of days later and wanted to let to me what had happened. I’ll spare you the ins and outs, but the drama points were that she had fallen out with one of her best friends after feeling upset that everyone was following his game instead of hers.
Her (wonderful) teacher then told me about the conversation she’d had with her as she was working through it. The teacher explained to my daughter that the emotion she was experiencing is called jealousy, and that it’s not a nice feeling, but it’s something that everyone feels sometimes. She explained that what is important is knowing how to recognize the negative emotion, acknowledging it and finding a way to work through it and let it go.
I have to say, I was already a huge fan of my kid’s teachers, but this conversation took my adoration to a whole new level. Already, at 5 years old, my daughter is being equipped with the tools that will allow her to deal with difficult situations and negative emotions. Heck, it took me a good 40 years of life to even start to be able to fathom this stuff out.
Anyway, what the teacher said was so obvious in some ways, but gave me a clarity that I hadn’t before. I have suffered from my fair share of jealousies, resentments, anger, shame – however I don’t think I’ve ever acknowledged that it’s human to feel those emotions – I just piled some more shame on top of those feelings and let them swirl around in my head for weeks, months, years.
While I don’t believe we have to be positive all the time, I do believe that prolonged negativity is unhealthy and unproductive. I’ve seen that in the workplace, in families, in relationships. At some point action needs to be taken and it’s time to move on.
So in the spirit of Getting UnBusy, here are a few pointers to keep in mind if you find yourself dealing with negative emotions, and to help you let go of that mind junk. To be clear, I am not a therapist. Some people are dealing with deeply difficult situations that may require professional support: I would encourage you to seek expert help if you are dealing with something ‘big’. This is for those every day things we come across in life which we can choose to take control of and release from our minds.
Recognize The Emotion
This sounds so simple, but the act of recognizing the emotion and labeling it allows you to pause and reflect on what you are feeling. It’s a moment of objectivity when you can call the feeling by it’s name, and remind yourself that you are simply experiencing what it is to be human. That in itself will make you feel a lot lighter rather than carrying the weight of it’s negativity and the associated shame of your feelings.
Determine A Course Of Action
Once you are able to view your feelings a little more objectively, it becomes easier to determine if you need to do anything to address the situation. Perhaps you need to have a direct conversation with another person involved in the situation. Perhaps you need to vent your feelings through talking to a friend or therapist.
Maybe you just need a good yell or cry! Or maybe you need to make a more significant change in your life to address the situation – ending a relationship or finding a new job. Whatever it is, knowing that your feelings are normal will allow you the space to reach a decision about how to address those feelings rather than trying to suppress them or numb them. Making a decision to take action will allow you to have control of the situation rather than the other way around.
Moving on is important. Holding on to negative emotions if you are not dealing with them is unproductive and clutters up your brain space like unused saucepans in your kitchen cabinets. Move them out and move on – when you are ready. Only you can decide when that is, and only you can make that happen. Knowing what helps you to move through negativity is key.
Physical exercise is a great one – everyone is different, but for me simply being outside and taking a walk can really lift my spirits. Lifting some weights, going for a run, punching stuff in a martial arts class or going out dancing might be what does it for you. Understanding yourself and knowing what works for you is important. In the end, YOU are responsible for finding your happiness.
I hope this helps any of you who might be dealing with negative emotions right now, and if not, just store these pointers in your mind for some future occasion!