Dealing With Negative Emotions
Life is full of negative emotions. Sometimes they’re a natural and appropriate response to an experience that dissipates over time. Unfortunately, there are many cases where negative emotions are abnormally frequent, prolonged, and/or intense. These anomalies may be associated with an underlying mental health problem (like a phobia or anxiety disorder), but they’re just as likely to be the result of the common human tendencies to dwell on the past and worry about an uncertain future.
Rumination is the Enemy
Have you ever felt trapped in a vicious cycle of unpleasant thoughts? This common scenario is known as rumination. When we ruminate, we become susceptible to a repeating wave of negative emotions. The focus may be on a single experience, or it could manifest as a chain-reaction that strings multiple sources of negativity together. Extreme rumination is often a feature of mental health problems, though most people are prone to minor episodes on a disturbingly regular basis.
Gaining Control With Mindfulness
Mindful practice is undertaken with the goal of learning to give our attention to the present. There is a ton of background noise in our mind at any given moment, much of which comes from lingering memories and anxieties about the future. Techniques like mindful meditation help us to move our attention away from things that aren’t happening in the present. This also serves to reduce the influence of mental activities that don’t positively contribute to the moment at hand.
As we gain a mindful perspective, we can more easily ignore many of the triggers that could otherwise be a source of rumination. It also forces us to acknowledge any negative feelings that we may be feeling in the present and to search for the root of these feelings. Many times, the source will be something from the past or anxieties about the future. Mindfulness teaches us to place less value and attention on such distractions, helping to free us from the shackles of rumination and other consequences of dysfunctional negative emotions.