Accept Your Negative Emotions to Reduce Them
Emotional acceptance can counterintuitively reduce negative emotions. Once we stop judging and trying to control our emotions, they seem to mysteriously dissipate on their own. So here's how to accept your negative emotions.
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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, we can accept our negative emotions and 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 and be present. Try not to judge them, evaluate them, or push them aside. Just experience them and try to accept your negative emotions. 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 whether you were able to accept your negative emotions.
Another Exercise to Practice Accepting Negative Emotions
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.
An Inspiring Example of Emotional Acceptance
If you work at accepting your negative emotions, you'll find that they arn't so bothersome and they'll decrease quicker on their own.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.