Turn Negative Emotions into Your Greatest Source of Strength

Elisha Goldstein on using mindfulness to avoid getting stuck in negative moments.

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I always say if there’s anything we’re assured of in life besides death and taxes, it’s stress and pain. While that may seem like a doomsday statement, if you look at it again, it’s actually quite freeing—if you know stress and pain are inevitable, then you can learn how to be grateful for the good when it’s here, and be graceful when the stress and pain arrives.

I wrote about this in my book, Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler:

“It is what it is, while it is. Nothing lasts forever. Difficulties will pass and so will the wonders; tune in to the preciousness of life. Bring this awareness into the moments of your day, tuning in to what really matters.”

Three Mind Traps that Drain Inner Strength

Life is so precious. How can we get better at setting aside the trivial mind traps that keep us stuck and drag us down into states of anxiety and depression?

It starts by recognizing when those mind traps arise.

  1. We get stuck comparing. Constantly comparing ourselves to others in an endless game of judgment and unworthiness, that has the potential to poison our relationships. Instead of celebrating our own success, we become fixated on that fact that someone else has achieved more—and instead of being happy for a friend, we resent that they’ve done something we wish we could.
  2. We get stuck worrying. Our brain’s natural negativity bias is a powerful thing. Driven by fear, it anticipates the worst-case scenarios, driving catastrophic thinking and ramping up our anxiety.
  3. We get stuck blaming. In an effort to expel a difficult feeling, we are compelled to blame others or ourselves for missed expectations. This only makes matters worse, as we are not able to step away from our mistake and miss seeing it as an opportunity to learn something new for next time.

What it really comes down to is there are moments in life that are hard. What would it be like to acknowledge that and turn a caring attention toward ourselves in an effort to approach the wounded part of ourselves rather than avoiding?

Turn Negative Emotions into a Source of Strength

The next time you notice one of those mind traps arise, hit pause. Say to yourself, “While this is a temporary feeling, it is here right now. How can I care for it, what do I need?”

Play with this in the days that come, and watch the love you inside grow. Watch how infectious it can be to the people around you. Imagine the ripple effects.

Adapted from Mindfulness & Psychotherapy