Accept your negative emotions to reduce them
Emotional acceptance refers to our ability to tolerate and even appreciate our emotions just as they are. Acceptance requires that we do not avoid or judge our emotions. Rather, we validate our emotions by letting them exist as they are. Acceptance seems to be almost antithetical to emotion regulation, as it feels like the absence of regulation. However, use of acceptance has shown to be a powerfully effective way to reduce negative emotions. Once we stop judging and trying to control our emotions, they seem to mysteriously dissipate on their own.
HOW TO PRACTICE ACCEPTANCE
Generate some negative emotions. You could think of the car that cut you off in traffic, all the things you dislike about your boss, or something that is making you sad or anxious. Once you have drummed up some negative emotions, stop all your thinking and just sit with these negative emotions. Try not to judge them, evaluate them, or push them aside. Just experience them. Be in your body and feel any sensations that arise as a result of these emotions. Notice if you are trying to drum up additional negative emotions, and just stop. Sit with your negative emotions and let them be for as long as it takes for them to dissipate on their own.
After your emotions have dissipated, reflect on this experience. Ask yourself these questions to learn about how acceptance worked for you.
Was it hard to just sit with negative emotions?
Did you find yourself judging your emotions or trying to push them away?
How long did it take for your emotions to dissipate?
What did you like or dislike about accepting your emotions?
Did this emotion regulation strategy work for you? Why or why not?
Use the daily news to practice acceptance
Next time you are reading the news and find yourself getting riled up about the latest injustice, corporate scandal, or rude politician, take a step back and pause. Practice letting your emotions just exist. Be careful not to drum up more negative emotions about the subject. But also be careful not to push the emotions away. Just sit with them, non-judgmentally until they dissipate.
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