Do you feel it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to distract yourself when feeling lousy?
My vote: good. And there are several distraction techniques I’d recommend:
- Take a nap, meditate, or relax in a way that works for you (as long as needed).
- Feel something good (i.e. sun on your skin, breeze blowing through your hair, coolness of water on your toes or fingertips, or the ground beneath your feet).
- Reflect upon a pleasant memory that makes your smile.
- Think about the feeling you had when you first fell in love.
- Consider a different thought that makes you laugh.
Likewise, there are several techniques I would recommend you AVOID:
- Plugging into technology (this creates further isolation and often delays re-processing the same thought, rather than moving past it).
- Forcing yourself to feel something that feels terrible, while you sense pitting in your gut, tension in your chest, or the inability to filter which emotion you are actually experiencing (you can always come back to an emotion later — but with clarity and peace of mind — should you choose to process it).
- Taking your negative emotion out on someone else, thereby projecting it and creating more of this feeling in your life.
- Beating yourself up for feeling something less than ideal; you’re human and it’s to be expected.
- Finding related life situations that remind you of this one and linking them together.
Before you judge yourself, I’ve been guilty of every technique I am now recommending you avoid. At one point, it wasn’t obvious to me these coping strategies lead to more of the very same emotion I prefer to avoid in the future.
I used to think ‘linking’ one experience to another would provide me more clarity — helping me understand the emotional flooding response I was experiencing more clearly — and ultimately reduce the frequency of a negative feeling. I also used to think projecting my feeling onto others would invoke sympathy from them, which could then positively affect my mood; this strategy, of course, was more subconscious than conscious.
I also used to beat myself up for feeling lousy, with the rationale that if I gave a lousy emotion enough attention, I might learn to avoid feeling this way. Of course, I later found out that attention on a particular feeling or situation leads to more of it.
You see, your thoughts and feelings get recorded. And with each recording, you’ll seek more of the same thing. This is why the power of distraction can be incredibly useful.
However, as a point of clarification, it’s important to revisit negative emotions or circumstances when you feel great again, understand if they are rooted in childhood or merely circumstantial, and heal your past. This can be done by re-writing your beliefs surrounding unjust, lack, or what I like to call the ‘should of, would of, could have’ dilemma (regret).
When you go backwards in time, think of the first time you experienced an emotion, have a conversation with little ‘you’, and change the emotional memory formed in the first circumstance that created it. And when you change your first memory of an emotion to something more positive and understanding, you’ll re-write your life, backwards and forwards.
Before I let you go for today, please consider the following questions:
- If you had a choice of letting go of every negative emotion you’ve ever experienced — by focusing on positive ones instead — or working through them, which would you prefer?
- If an emotion is ‘stuck’, will you handle processing it better when you are (fill in the blank: angry, frustrated, jealous, anxious, etc.)? Or will you handle a negative emotion better after the fact, when you feel happy, relaxed, and in love?
- Is there anyone else who can change how you feel besides ‘you’?
- When you are in alignment with yourself, are you better able to cope?
- If you’re having fun, are you more or less likely to see a situation in a positive light, rather than harp on the negative?
- Do you take enough time for yourself to be allowed to feel without all of the stories attached to a particular feeling? And, if not, could the stories possibly help or are they sound pollution for your thoughts?
Your body, mind, and soul are yours. Only yours. You get to choose how you feel each and every moment of every day. Even when you don’t get to choose anything else, you get to choose how you ‘feel’. This is your power. And within the power of how you feel — right now — exists the command for how you’ll feel in the future.
Today’s lesson: Choose how you feel. At times, distract yourself to feel better. And when you do this, come back and revisit the experience in a more positive state of mind. If it’s important enough, do the work to release the emotion when it began. You deserve it, both for your sanity and for your ideal life.
Sent to you with love, gratitude, and compassion,
Originally published at drkareem.com on June 23, 2017.