Let the unhappy moments prepare you for the good times that will come.

Life is a combination of millions of minutes. That is a lot. A single month has about 43,000 minutes. We can experience so many emotions during that period. Whatever you’re feeling now may be the furthest thing from your mind a mere 10 minutes from now. I say this to emphasize the importance of change in not just our circumstances but also our emotions.

Along with the astonishing highs life can offer, there are just as many lows that we may have to face. During these low times, it can seem like there is no way to escape. Everything can start to feel dull and lifeless. It’s easy to think life shouldn’t feel bad. We tell ourselves that time spent in an upset state is wasted time, but I think that is an oversimplification. While negative emotions are never something we would wish for, they do provide an opportunity to work on your personal development.

Here are three steps you may want to consider taking when life becomes a struggle:

Step 1: What Caused These Emotions?

When we feel upset, there is usually something behind it. Identifying the underlying problem is important. Be observant of what thoughts or observations seem to set you off. You can ask yourself questions to narrow down the cause as much as possible. Are you mad at your partner for what they said or did you feel upset before the conversation started? Be the detective of your emotions and figure out what caused them.

Figuring out what causes your emotions is one of the most important ways to get to understand yourself. We have to know what is causing our problems before we can fix them. This is why you must be specific when determining the cause. Being specific will allow you to take the correct course of action. You don’t want to cut off ties with a family member because of a single misguided, but well-intentioned, criticism. You might be ending the relationship when the relationship isn’t the issue. Yet, if you aren’t thorough in examining your emotions and their causes, it’s easy to rationalize the decision as the only possible course of action. As a result, you get an unnecessary and possibly painful rift in the relationship.

Step 2: What Motivation Can Come from This Moment?

Now that you have identified the main problem you’re having with the situation, you have the opportunity to decide how you respond to it. Are you going to use this obstacle to improve your situation or are you going to use it as confirmation that life isn’t fair and your life will never work out how you wish it would? The first response is constructive, while the second is destructive.

Challenges are going to be present in your life no matter what you do. To fully get the most out of these challenges, you have to be willing to see them as a chance to get better. You’re Thomas Edison inventing the lightbulb — this may not be the time it works, but it will be closer than the last attempt. Challenges force you to get better. This emotional struggle you’re going through is a challenge. You have the opportunity to focus on taking care of yourself a little better, achieve more emotional equanimity, and get over this hurdle. Looking at it as an essential chance to grow will make it easier to get back on the right path and maybe some positives will emerge from the situation.

Step 3: Take Action

The last and most important step is to take action. Nothing works without action. We must be able to bring our thoughts into the physical world and action bridges that gap. Feel free to start small. In fact, starting small can be more sustainable over the long run. Putting in just a little effort can make a huge difference.

We are all going to make mistakes when we try to implement these ideas. That is a part of learning. Plus, life can be incredibly mysterious in its own right. Sometimes things just don’t work out as we expect them to. The best we can do is continue trying.

If you’re unable to overcome an emotional challenge today, you get to try again tomorrow or next week or next month. In my experience, life is a series of loosely-related moments. We create stories to explain what has happened, but we have an opportunity to change our decision at this moment which, when repeated a few times, will change the story we tell ourselves forever.

In Conclusion

Negative emotions are a struggle we all have to face at times. They threaten to put us in a rut that can be hard to get out of. Instead of letting these negative emotions decrease the quality of our lives, we can learn to embrace them and use them for positive change. By understanding their causes and the power we have over our circumstances, we can begin to take steps in a positive direction. These changes won’t remove all current and future negative emotions, but they can help us deal with these emotions in a more healthy and productive manner. The storms will come but we have control over how well we weather them.

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