Negative feelings plague all of us from time to time. Worry creeps into the mind like an unwelcome in-law, and if something isn’t done about it, the worry will stay and eat you out of house and home. Anger strikes, pumping your body full of adrenaline, making it hard to concentrate on your work or speak with a civil tongue. Depression brings feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, darkening and saddening your world like a cold, bleak day in winter.
These are the three faces of negative feelings: Worry, anger, depression. Most negative feelings you ever feel are a shade of anxiety, anger, or sadness. You know these feelings are unpleasant. You know they aren’t good for your health. But what can you do to minimize the amount of time you feel them?
First, of course, is to look at the situation causing the negative feelings. If there is a concrete circumstance, a real problem causing the feeling, give it some good hard thought and then do something about it, if you can.
But if there’s nothing you can do about it, get involved in something that engages your mind and forget about it. Don’t try to stop thinking negatively. Simply try to get absorbed in doing something constructive.
Purposeful activities occupy mind-space, and the more the task engages or takes up your attention, the more mind-space it occupies. Get involved enough in something or do something absorbing enough, and there’s no more mind-space left to think about anything else.
What continues a negative emotion is thinking about it. Just as you can distract a crying child and he will forget his skinned knee, you can distract yourself with something so interesting or challenging or important, your mind will stop thinking about the problem, and your negative feelings — now that you’re no longer producing them with your thoughts — will dissipate. Seek escape from unnecessary negative feelings by fleeing into a purpose. It will take your mind off the negative thing, giving you a healthful break from those negative feelings. The side effect is that something purposeful and productive gets done in the meantime. And that will give you something to feel good about.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.