It’s October, about a week after my plane occurrence (for those of you who don’t know I had to emergency land after an engine failure) and I feel genuinely sad. I’d been shaky since the incident, a bit teary, and I was now feeling a strange mixture of emotions – most of which were negative.
Initially, I thought, stay positive. As many will have read in my last blog, I wanted to just be grateful to be alive. Fill out that gratitude diary and be thankful, I repeated to myself. But the thing is I felt sad. Unlike some events that have happened in my life, I couldn’t really work out why – I just knew I felt it.
Next, I started to feel guilty about it. I’m meant to be positive; as the lovely team often jokes, ‘You’re the Head of Happiness’. Despite their repeated requests to ‘run with how I feel’, and the fact I’ve always known it’s not great to suppress negative emotions, I really wanted to stop feeling sad. Focus on the positive, play a happy song, distraction, distraction, distraction, I thought.
Then last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a wonderful all-day event, the Happier World Conference, where I heard these wise words from author and Monk, Ajahn Brahm:
“Don’t keep controlling the mind, telling it what to do as if you own the mind and treat it like a slave, because if you do, your slave will rebel.”
It got me thinking about how important it is to allow negative emotions to be just that; how anger and sadness are a part of everyday life and being aware of them and accepting them is key. Research shows that the acknowledgment and acceptance of our negative emotions can positively aid our mental health. By trying to suppress certain thoughts, it could lessen our own sense of ease and contentment.
Psychologist Jonathan M. Adler says that “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” So, could it be that the ying and yang of the good and bad, help to balance a situation in a way that may support our wellbeing?
But what should I do? By now (for additional reasons) anger had kicked in too. I was one big melting pot of frustration! And this is what I found worked for me:
- Firstly, stop and breathe. I sometimes do that during my day. Take a few breaths out, (maybe Marta’s emergency meditation); just stop and re-centre. This can help in the moment.
- Next be aware of what I am feeling, and then say ‘that’s OK’. I try to run with it; try not to forcefully alter my emotions; try to remember it is just a feeling and it will pass. A bit like floating clouds, I guess.
- If this doesn’t work, I like to talk to friend or loved one. For you it may be writing in a journal, or expressing yourself in a different way.
- Take action – sometimes we may need to actually do something about it – talk to the person who upset you or change your plans.
- Finally, my biggest tip is (not surprisingly) meditate: quieten your mind, re-connect with who you are, and see what happens. Often, for me, thoughts shifts, emotions soften, and I feel very differently. The more I meditate, the more this becomes the case!
I’ve come to realise that negative emotions are key to our survival, and studies suggest an important part of our emotional health. Experiencing and expressing mixed emotions has been shown to be a good predictor of a rise in wellbeing.
So, if emotions are high, and you’re feeling low, take a pause for thought. And as Mahatma Gandhi said:
“Be congruent, be authentic, be your true self”