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Leverage your negative emotions to build a more beautiful, meaningful life. 

How do you handle your negative emotions?

When frustration, helplessness, laziness, jealousy anxiety, fear, shame, anger, stress, and sadness barge in and make themselves at home, what do you do? How do you deal with negative emotions?

Do you grab a glass of wine, binge-watch movies, go shopping, eat junk food, pray, meditate, or run into the arms of loved ones sobbing?

Do you have a go-to plan for what to do when these emotions show up? You could be one of those people who are mellow and happy most of the time. Or you could be an optimist of epic proportions and live in a state of happiness most of the time.

This article is not for the optimists or those born with a naturally sunny disposition impervious to the storm of negative emotions. For everyone else, let’s get started.

There are uncountable books and articles out there on how to deal with your stress, anger, anxiety, and grief. I’ve read a multitude of these books, and my life is now more vibrant and more nuanced. I also didn’t find them immediately helpful. So I created my action plan each time the negatives show up.

Create Your Action List

The first step: write a list of goals you want to accomplish, broken down into little bits of action. It is easier said than done. Most people these days do not stop to contemplate; they don't have the time. For some inspirational reading, you can look at my favorite motivational and inspirational books here. You don't need to set huge goals though. Your goal could be to get stronger, and your small action is to do fifty push-ups and thirty leg lifts every time you feel sad instead of reaching for your favorite comfort food.

The second step: the next time the negatives show up, attack the list.

The third step: repeat each time the negatives roll in, experimenting with attacking different goals when overwhelmed with various emotions.

Iterate Your Action List

When I found out that I wasn’t invited to a party because they weren’t sure I would want to spend the evening conversing in German, I signed up for a German course.

My family lives across the world. When sadness hit me hard because my entire family was celebrating Thanksgiving for the eleventh year without me present, I reorganized every closet in our home and cleaned out the cellar in one day.

Through trial and error, I discovered that yoga or swimming is the most therapeutic when I am anxious or angry, laziness is best leveraged to read to my children, and a setback, such as a terrible book review, is best attacked by learning something new, like InDesign.

I hate the feelings of intense sadness, despair, and fear, but they are intensely energizing for my writing.

People tend to want to run from their negative feelings or to see them as the enemy. From my perspective, society tends to regard negative feelings as something of which to be ashamed.

I disagree. Negative emotions are charged with energy, and you can use that power to propel you to achieving your goals, just as many brilliant artists, writers, and entrepreneurs have.

Don’t run, zone out, push away, or repress your negative emotions. Don’t wallow or let yourself be consumed by negative emotions either, instead channel this energy. Direct the energy where you need it to go. Trust me; anger is the heat that can drive you to work harder than most brilliant motivational speakers could inspire you to accomplish.

Negative Emotions: Cut Yourself A Break

Okay, okay, sometimes I have a sad day, and instead of sitting down to write at night, I grab a glass of champagne and curl up in my favorite cashmere sweater and yoga pants to binge-watch a show on Netflix.

A gal’s got to cut herself a break every once in a while and give herself the treat of wallowing about in agony without any benefit now and then instead of grabbing a mop or writing 1,000 words.

Still, 99% of the time I wake up the next morning regretting I let go of an opportunity to utilize the energy of that negative emotion, instead of allowing it to evaporate with the champagne bubbles.

Wow- Too Bad I Don't Feel Worse

It could get to the point where you stop seeing negative emotions as enemy number one to a fulfilling life. Just after Christmas I looked around and thought, wow, what a shame I haven’t had anxiety flood me for a long time now; the house has some serious organizing to get done.

I was happy. The thing about being content is that it isn’t very motivating to change things.

Have you considered how beneficial feelings of frustration, sadness, or anger can be?

There is a mellowness to contentment, a softness. Who doesn’t relish that feeling? But how motivating of an emotion is it? When was the last time you heard someone say, ‘ So I was SO happy, and it was then I decided to quit my job and start my business.’

Sure, happiness is a goal most aspire to experience as much of as possible in the time we have on this planet. I tell you what is even better: dreaming big dreams, and chasing them with hard work until they come true. I find I can leverage my negative emotions to propel me toward achieving my goals. Go ahead and see if you can’t do the same thing.

Write your go-to list for negative emotions.

For each emotion, such as loneliness, sadness, fear, anxiety, and anger, what activity will you emerge yourself in instead of turning toward your current fix? For instance, instead of having a glass of wine, submerging into social media, or eating that entire pizza, what are you going to do when loneliness hits?

If you hate your boss but need the money and healthcare to support your family right now, don't drink that half a liter of beer. Start rebuilding that car you have in your garage. Go out and start taking those sailing lessons. Start training for that marathon to earn money for your favorite charity.

The question isn’t when negative emotions are going to knock on your door and push themselves inside. We are programmed to have more negative than positive.

Write down your go-to action list for how you will leverage your negative emotions to build a more beautiful, meaningful life.


With warm wishes- Heather Nadine

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