Most of us tend to avoid conflict. We repress emotions because they may be negative, and result in feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. Often, we are afraid of confrontation because we don’t want our feelings to be hurt, or we don’t want to cause hurt in others. We silence those negative emotions, putting them on our personal back burners.
So, let’s take a moment to understand that negativity and repressed emotions have a definite impact on our bodies, our behavior and our relationships. Chronic stress can deplete the brain chemicals required for happiness, and stress can also wreak havoc with our immune system. Hypertension, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, infection, and even life expectancy can be by-products of a weakened immune system. Scary stuff, right?
If you believe that negative emotions can impact overall health, it’s kind of a no-brainer to get rid of the negative emotions altogether. Easier said than done, you might be thinking. It’s not exactly a switch that we can turn on or off, like the front porch light. And it obviously stands to reason that positive emotions can also impact our overall health. They inspire options and creativity, help us to sleep better, have fewer colds, recover from cardiovascular stress, and become happier.
I’m convinced we can teach ourselves how to replace the negative emotions with positive ones. Start with a few baby steps: Just for today, let go of the traffic, the politics, and the minor fight with your family member or your co-worker. Instead, practice the 3:1 ratio. “What in the heck is the 3:1 ratio?” Simply replace one negative emotion with three positive ones.
Here are a couple of examples:
Example 1: A well-meaning but not necessarily thoughtful man just asked you when your baby is due, and you’re not pregnant. You feel embarrassed. What would it look like if you traded your embarrassment for three positive emotions? Try these on for size: astonished (at his lack of tact), good-humored (because you opted to laugh it off), and pleased (with yourself for not lacing into him for his obvious error in judgment).
Example 2: Your daughter just “volunteered” you to head up the cookie committee for her Girl Scout troop. You feel overwhelmed. Instead, you turn your own internal switch and choose to feel interested, involved, and gratified that you’re contributing to something both important and pleasing.
Does this make any sense at all? Can you teach yourself to be more positive by simply rethinking negative emotions? If you’ve read this far, let me make one last suggestion: take a moment to search “positive emotions list” on your computer or smart phone and add some of the words you find to your own vocabulary.
If you practice this for a week, I believe you will get really good at exchanging the negative emotion for positive ones. In fact, I’m feeling optimistic, hopeful, and enthusiastic about your success!