When we are filled with anger or sadness, it can be hard to make decisions in the moment about how to cope with our feelings. No one wants to feel annoyed or upset, so it's important we find healthy ways to release our negative emotions. Acting out in the wrong ways can exacerbate our problems, but finding a proper release can help us cope and hopefully make our situations a bit better.
"We need to express, release, or detox our negative emotions or they will build up and block us from enjoying our present, being productive, and reaching our goals," says Sharon C. Martin, LCSW over email. "When we release negative emotions, we free up space and energy for positive, successful, and fulfilling things. We need to gain awareness of our feelings, accept them without judging them as 'good' or 'bad,' and use healthy coping skills to release them."
Maybe you have a go-to activity when you're feeling down, or perhaps you're someone who prefers to retreat into their room and take some time for yourself, but whatever your preference is, it's important to have an idea of what can help keep your negativity at bay. Next time you're feeling upset, annoyed, or just plain frustrated, consider these eight healthy ways to release negative emotion if you're looking for a productive way to cope.
1. Breathe Deeply
"If you have negative energy that burns you up inside, take some deep breaths," says Michelle Katz, LPN, MSN. "Take in the emotion, and release it with a breath. For someone who feels like they don't have time to meditate, taking a deep breath can help. Think of it starting in your stomach and coming up from your chest."
2. Write It Down
"A lot of people write because they are releasing emotion," says Katz. "If you don't want to share with friends, share with your diary. Protect it with a password so you're not worried about someone finding it." A study from UCLA found that putting your emotions into words can alleviate physical pain, as it reduces your brain's emotional response in the amygdala.
3. Distract Yourself
Whether it's engaging in an activity you love or throwing yourself into a new project, distraction can help prevent you from ruminating over the same negative thoughts. "When you start feeling a negative emotion, tell your brain to stop feeling that way," says Katz. "Say 'stop' in your head, and distract yourself from that feeling. Focus on something else and push yourself through."
"A hard workout that gets your blood pumping and body sweating is a physical release that helps release emotions that are trapped in our body, such as stiff muscles and neck and back pain," says Martin. One study from Rutgers University found that a combination of meditation and aerobic exercise can help reduce depression, rumination, and overwhelming negative thoughts.
5. Utilize Imagery
"If you have an emotion like anger, envision the emotion of anger being hot and boiling," says Katz. "Imagine pouring cool water over it. Give the emotion a place, and take the emotion, and throw it to the moon. Picture releasing it. Give it a shake. Just imagining that really helps a lot of people."
6. Talk With Friends
"Go to a trusted person and you talk it out," says Katz. "Your friends are sitting there and being active listeners, and in the end you feel better. It feels better to get things off your chest." A study published in the journal Developmental Psychology found that during times of stress, being around a best friend can help reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
"Sometimes it can help to just try to be positive," says Katz. "Smile at someone on the street. When that person smiles back at you and says 'hello' and 'good morning,' you have released the bad energy." In fact, smiling when you're down can have a feedback loop effect on your body, causing a release of more positive emotions.
Your beauty sleep is important for more than just feeling rested. "Seven to nine hours of sleep [per night] sets the stage for having a strong emotional baseline to handle difficult emotions," says Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC over email. Sleep can help reset your brain's ability to cope with emotions, which can help your response to negative situations, according to research from the Psychological Bulletin.
Try each of these tricks to see which works best for you, or come up with your own go-to activity when you feel like you're on the verge of releasing all your negative emotions. And don't worry, sometimes it's perfectly normal to feel down.
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