The Solution To Negative Feelings
July 07, 2019
In over 15 years of working with clients to grow their businesses—and manage and overcome the emotions that get in the way—I get asked the same question time and again: What do I do when I'm feeling bad? There are many variations of this question, such as...
- "What can I do to feel better in moments when I'm down?"
- "What do I do when I doubt myself and feel like my own worst critic?"
- "When I feel lazy and unmotivated, how do I get myself to get up and take action?"
I love this question because it exposes a fundamental flaw in most people's thinking: the key to success and happiness is being in total control of our thoughts and feelings.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The clients who ask me this question, how to make themselves feel better, are very smart people. They've tried to answer (and conquer) it on their own. They've run through the standard recommendations, most of which are only a Google search away. Do any of these sound familiar?
- Stressed or feeling down? Exercise!
- Worrying about something from the past over and over again? Break the pattern! Interrupt your thinking and go do something else.
- Feeling lonely? Call a friend to say hello.
- Feeling sad? Make gratitude a habit! Add daily appreciation into your morning routine.
- Doubt whether you'll hit your larger goals? Make a vision board. Write reminder notes about how unstoppable you are and put them everywhere—on your desk, as your screensaver, in the bathroom, and on your car's rear-view mirror!
My clients have heard of these strategies from books, blogs, seminars, motivational speakers, and coaches. They are very familiar with a number of these popular strategies to feel better —and they've tried them.
Yet they still come to me with the same question: "What do I do when I don't feel good?"
In my experience, there's nothing wrong with any of these methods (gratitude, calling a friend, exercise, and so on). They do work at times.
It's just a matter of consistency: Do they workall the time? Do they work under special circumstances? Do they work immediately, or on command?
Not really. People have reported to me for years that these strategies only work for them occasionally...if at all.
In fact, what I hear far more often is that when people try to get rid of a bad feeling by doing one of these practices, it mostly just makes it worse.
This is where the problem lies: the desire to change how we feel is always rooted incontrolling our emotions. We're looking to control every little thought and feeling in the same way we control apps on our phones: delete the ones we don't like, and install the ones we do.
Is this even possible? Is it even realistic? Do you know of any human being who has this level of control over their inner world? Has any person ever existed that could do this?
There’s another way.
The secret lies in recognizing that we don't have to always control how we feel in the first place. There is, in fact, a very natural rhythm of emotional ups and downs. The truth is that our moods will ALWAYS go up and down no matter what is going on outside of us. That can be hard to accept, but if we can, the reward is huge: freedom.
Freedom not just from the lies we tell ourselves that once we make enough money, find the perfect relationship, or build the perfect body, then our thoughts and feelings will be totally under control and we can finally be happy. Also, freedom from the energy and effort of monitoring, working on, and generally trying to manage what is going on inside of us.
Let's answer the question then. What do you do the next time you're feeling down, or ruminating on thoughts from the past, or are nervous about the future or money?
That’s right. Don’t resist. Don't try to change how you're feeling. Analyzing or overly focusing on what you're feeling will onlyextend the life of whatever you're experiencing.
Maybe you're familiar with the following wise sayings:
- This too shall pass.
- You're stuck in a moment.
- What you focus on expands.
- Energy flows where attention goes.
- What you resist persists.
Trying to push away, fix, “deal with,” or solve an emotion only breathes more oxygen into the fire. Ultimately, noticing what you experience, and doing your best to wait it out, is your best strategy to feeling good in the short and long term.
Life doesn't guarantee us much, but it does guarantee that our feelings eventually will change.
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