Can You Make Friends With Negative Emotions?

There are many articles in this Wellbeing Hive about the challenges posed to us by COVID19, and the possible strategies to combat them – and here is another one!

Recently, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr Adam Fraser speak – Dr Fraser is a Human Performance Researcher who assists groups and individuals to develop strategies to reach beyond their potential.  And isn’t that what the unexpected and unfathomable events are asking of us – to go beyond the lives we imagined for ourselves and dig deep collectively into reserves of strength we perhaps have not had to dig into in this way before?

Dr Fraser reinforces, that in times of stress having moments where we think negatively is natural – as are moments where we feel a little sad or overwhelmed.

Instead of fearing these negative emotions, Dr Fraser encourages the people he works with to make friends with them instead.

He begins with two simple tips for this. Firstly, don’t judge.  Accept what you feel and don’t berate yourself for it. All feelings are natural – you just will probably want to move past some of the more unpleasant ones!

And secondly, don’t feel you need to wait for a positive emotion to take action.  If we wait to feel better, to feel ready or to have a better day, we miss opportunities to change our mood and circumstances in the moment.  Taking action is a strategy to feel better – so don’t put it off!

This advice works well for others too – always accept and acknowledge their feelings with understanding and empathy.  Don’t just say things to make them feel better or encourage them to “cheer up” or to “think positive” – do however ask them if there is anything they think they could do to improve the situation.

If you were asked to talk about one of your proudest achievements in life – what would this be to you?  No doubt it would be a time you overcame adversity.  And to do so – you probably applied the strategies above!

The best response to challenge – and you can train yourself to do this – is to ask yourself one of the following questions:

What can I learn from this?

How can I grow?

These mindsets assist people to be far more resilient when dealing with challenges, particularly the ones that face us now, which are ongoing and multi-faceted in nature.  I hope you feel the Wellbeing Hive continually asks you these kinds of questions.

As parents, these concepts still apply, although Dr Fraser acknowledges it is natural – although not helpful – to want to protect your children from negative emotions.

Talk challenging situations through with your children constructively, hoping that they will internalize the types of question you ask and adopt these as self-talk as they grow older.  Focus on engaging in constructive behaviours to take positive action in the face of negative emotions – what will help?  What actions can you take?  Which actions match your values?

This will provide your children with excellent opportunities to build and adopt behaviours and strategies for problem-solving and self-efficacy.  All of which will assist them to better manage stress in the future.