In an appropriate framework, negative emotions are normal reactions to unpleasant situations, events and people. But when negativism rules your life, you become miserable, angry and depressed. A persistent negative state of mind is toxic to your physical and mental health. You increase your risk for chronic diseases. Your blood pressure remains at a constant and dangerous high and your blood sugar gets out of control. You’re also at risk for depression, anxiety and sudden episodes of violent or verbal outbursts. And these may get you into more trouble.
Fortunately, science has found ways to help you control those feelings of anger, fear, envy and bitterness. Here are evidence-based procedures and techniques to overcome them and regain control of your life.
4 Science-Backed Ways to Keep Negative Emotions at Bay
Have your amygdala removed.
A rather drastic procedure and not recommended unless ordered by a brain specialist is the surgical removal of the amygdala. The amygdala is that part of the brain located at the sides that triggers feelings of fear, anger, sadness and aggression. Its removal will eradicate these negative emotions so you won’t have to worry about uncontrollable fear, rage and unhappiness. Fear not, this small almond-shaped mass is not responsible for your feelings of love and joy. So your capacity for positive emotions is not disturbed.
Exercise the blues and anger away.
It’s an accepted fact that regular physical activity keeps you fit and healthy and helps ward off illnesses by producing antibodies, proteins that fight disease. But that’s not all exercise does. It also keeps you mentally fit by improving focus and sharpness, reducing fatigue and relieving stress. Studies have shown that any form of exercise that increases your heart rate and oxygen intake is good for mental health as well.
When you walk, run, spin, dance or engage in sports, your body releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals that improve your mood and chase away anger and sadness. It also boosts the production and release of serotonin, the happy hormone. When you have low serotonin level, you feel down, you get irritated at the smallest things and you have angry outbursts because you lose control of your impulses. Exercise is a simple, effective and scientific way to keep those negative feelings from ruining your day.
Take a nature walk.
It’s not realistic and practical to go to a forest or the mountains to enjoy nature as frequently as you’d like to. If you’re a city or suburban dweller, take a trek around a park or sit in a garden with green grass, trees and flowers. You can also go to a nearby beach and take a stroll. These activities can make you feel carefree, happy and cheerful.
Stanford University researchers found that being surrounded by nature decreases rumination, that habit of obsessing and repeatedly mulling over the negative events of the past. Rumination leads to depression, resentment, anger and desire for revenge. These are unhealthy feelings that will eat away at you and make you sick physically and mentally. The researchers think nature has many positive distractions that take your mind away from rumination and make you more calm, allowing you to see the big picture.
Another benefit of taking a nature walk is exposing yourself to sunlight – just not too much of it and early morning sun is safer. Spending a few minutes in the sun exhorts your body to produce Vitamin D. Low levels of this vitamin put you at higher risk for depression. Going out of the house or office also offers you a new environment and erases those toxic emotions.
Meditate mindfully daily.
A 20-minute daily mindful meditation has been scientifically proven to keep you grounded, grateful and good-natured with its impact on brain function. One of its more significant effects is moderating the ego and steering thoughts from the self to others. When you shut down your egotistic self, you are inclined to let go of negative emotions as well. You become more aware of the present environment and other people.
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