As we mentioned above, how you process your emotions relates to your beliefs.
Let’s take Aristotle’s example and look at anger – if you think anger is bad, most of the time you will suppress it to the point where it’s too much and you explode. Which is not healthy or helpful.
Humans have a massive bias against negativity. Understandably negative experiences are more clearly remembered than positive ones. This stems back to when humans first existed, and our brains were just trying to keep us alive in the face of lots of danger! Remember that sabre-tooth tiger?
Recent research has shown that the ratio between negative emotion and positive emotion is from 1 to 4, or 1 to 6. That means if 1 negative experience is aroused, you will need 4-6 positive ones with a similar intensity to break it.
In cases like this, you should have your own collection of things that trigger positive emotions and redirect your attention… It could be a song, a fun video, a photograph, a quote, or a particular memory. It doesn’t matter what the content is, if it can evoke a different emotion (ideally a positive one)!
To deal with more intense negative emotions, what could be good to snap you out of the situation is sensation. That could be a cold shower, high-intensity exercise, or anything that evokes an intense sensation in you that can redirect your attention away from the negative emotion.
Managing your thoughts
Sometimes thoughts are helpful. They spur you on, they inspire you, they encourage you to create. But sometimes they can be negative and niggling. Sometimes it’s good to try and take a step back from these negative thoughts, to question them, and to challenge them. Here are some useful tips on how to do this.
Be mindful of triggers – what brings up a negative emotion, and how often does this happen? Be mindful of these things, especially if you find yourself ruminating.
How the negative thought/trigger argues – this is important. Almost every emotion that you have will compel you to think about certain topic areas in specific ways.
Anger will direct you to thoughts of blame, or someone being false. Anxiety will hold your attention to the things that are out of your control. Sadness will direct your thoughts to negativity, and hopelessness. All these trains of thought will feed your emotions. The more you engage in these thoughts, the more negative your emotions will become. It is a reinforcing cycle. Thoughts = emotions. So, be wary of those intrusive thoughts!
Ask yourself, what’s the purpose of this thought?
Normally, when you experience anxiety and you start having lots of “what if” thoughts, your brain is trying to convince you that thinking about it will lead you to a solution. But that’s not true. Most of the time it’s just a recurring train of thought around certain ideas.
Evaluate your thought’s purpose
Ask yourself questions like, why am I thinking this? Is it useful or helpful? Or are they just creating more anxiety? Analyzing your thoughts will help you to see patterns. Once you are aware of these patterns, you can begin developing new thoughts that will help to break these patterns.