by Tali Shenfield, PhD, CPsych
Dr. Tali Shenfield is a Clinical Psychologist and Director of Richmond Hill Psychology Center. In this article Dr. Shenfield speaks from personal experience, practicing yoga and meditation for over 10 years. When she has free time from psychological assessments and psychotherapy, Dr. Shenfield also enjoys writing articles for her psychology and parenting blog. You are invited to visit her blog and follow Dr. Tali Shenfield on Twitter at @DrShenfield.
Positive psychology is on the rise and becoming more and more popular. It is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, many people interpret the main idea of positive psychology incorrectly as being that negative feelings are bad and need to be avoided. Well, if you can avoid them entirely then you are very lucky and very unique. Regrettably, most of us cannot.
Can we still be happy? Here’s a secret that many happy people already know – everyone deals with negative feelings from time to time (or a lot of the time). Okay, so maybe that’s not so secret. But what do happy people know that unhappy people seem to forget? We all need an outlet in which to channel those unhappy feelings. Because we are never (and I mean never, no matter how hard you try) going to avoid negativity, we need to find an effective way to deal with it in order to truly be happy.
One of the best ways to channel that negative energy is to find something positive to engage in. And depending on who you are and what you like, this can be a variety of different things. There is no need to fret or worry about what you choose for an outlet – so long as what you choose makes you happy and does not harm anyone else. For example, maybe your best friend loves to indulge in a hot cup of tea and a good book when she is faced with stress and adversity; however, maybe the idea of reading a book makes you even more stressed out. No big deal – you can still be best friends and have very different outlets.
Maybe you are still trying to figure out what might relieve your stress, worry, anxiety or negative energy…..here are a few suggestions:
Yoga – This is my go-to activity for stress relief and relaxation. No matter how bad of a day I’ve had, no matter how many worries are running through my head, by the time I lay on my mat for the last pose of the session (known as savasana), I literally feel the tension ooze out of my body. My head is clear, my heart is full, and I leave class with a new outlook on life. Even if you don’t have the time for a formal class, take 10 or 15 minutes to do a few poses in your living room. The stretching and breathing is likely to have a calming effect on you, making it easier to forget your troubles and go about your day.
Meditation – This is another great way to focus your mind and energy onto something positive. The practice of quiet breathing has an amazing calming effect on the mind and body. You can enhance the experience even further by burning essential oils during a meditation session; some great choices for a relaxing effect are lavender, rosemary or chamomile.
Gardening – There is something soothing about becoming one with and using the Earth around us. The art of tilling the ground, preparing the soil and sowing the seeds can be so peaceful for some people. Tending to the garden and nurturing the plants can provide focus and balance to an otherwise chaotic life. And reaping the benefits of the garden can provide ultimate satisfaction. If you have access to a plot of land that can be used for gardening, give it a try. If you live in a city or apartment, you still have options. Join a community garden in your area (if there is one), which allows you to cultivate a small plot of land in a shared garden. If nothing such as that exists in your area, try growing a small herb garden or tending to a plant you can keep in your home or apartment.
Volunteering – Helping people who are less fortunate than you can help you better appreciate your own life. When the going gets tough for you, reach out to someone who has bigger problems. Spend time at a local shelter, talking with people or simply lending a listening ear. Offer to serve food at your Church’s soup kitchen or ask your local hospital if they need donations or assistance in any way. When you see life in a different way, through the eyes of someone who is struggling more than you are, it can have a way of bringing your own problems into perspective.
The above list is an extremely small list of ideas that can help you channel negative energy into positive. Other suggestions include any type of exercise, listening to your favorite music, calling a friend or taking a long (or short) walk. Remember, the outlet itself does not matter as much as the feeling you get from it. Find your inner passion and work it – you’ll be glad you did.