Everyone has negative emotions. It’s part of life. At times those negative emotions will generate uncomfortable feelings which can start out as feeling less than, not good enough, fearful of rejection or just a fear of failure. If we don’t do anything about it we can begin to let our brain overtake our emotional state with a feeling of hopelessness.
Finding out what is behind these negative emotions and the best way to move past them, has become the research model of Rick Hanson Ph.D., a neurophysiologist and founder of the Wellspring Institute. Hanson believes that humans are evolutionarily wired with a negativity bias, and his research shows that as our primitive brains were developing, they also stayed on high alert in order to avoid threats and dangers within the environment.
Well if we fast forward to today, we’re not generally trying to fend off saber tooth tigers or search out a warm cave to sleep in, so our brains have focused on our emotional fears and insecurities in order to keep on guard. There is plenty of psychological and therapeutic work that can be done over time to lessen the impact of these negative emotions, but I have found the quickest relief comes from Action Based Coping or the ABC method for short.
For this example, I will use my Monday morning disagreement with the scale. Sunday was just a little bit too much fun this week and I helped myself to an extra slice of pizza and a couple of desserts on Sunday night as well. So it was no surprise that there was a revolt staring back at me when I looked down at the scale on Monday. Immediately, my mind goes negative and starts berating the choices I made just hours earlier. It says things like you don’t follow thru on eating well, you couldn’t, you should have, you’re a loser.
Well, at that moment I have to take action. I could throw in the towel, head for Denny’s and order a double Grand Slam breakfast with an extra Cinnabon and just resign myself to being a failure or I can simply eat
a healthy breakfast and get right back on track. You see, I am where I am because of what I have done and I’ll be where I’m going because of what I do next.
As we travel on the road of recovery, we make a decision to start building healthier habits. One step at a time, one day at a time, one meeting at a time. I have the same choice in recovery. When those negative feelings hit and I’m in financial fear or a relationship is ending I can revert back to unhealthy habits to cope with and avoid those feelings. It could be to harm myself by drinking or using or even just isolating and binge-watching Netflix or scrolling social media at home alone. Avoid those behaviors and the negative consequences that follow.
Instead, commit to healthy habits to deal with those feelings. Make a call to a sponsor, get to a meeting, call a newcomer or do any other number of things that are consistent with the healthy goals I have for my sobriety and my life. The result is I am learning to feel better by doing better. It’s a habit that will last and build me up instead of tearing me down. So we take that first step and we go for a jog or go to the gym or go for a walk…and we feel better when we do. Then tomorrow we do the same thing and now we feel
even better because we just did it two days in a row. Our sobriety started that way, so why can’t all our healthy actions?
We decided, oftentimes with someone’s help, to get sober. So we stopped drinking or using and we went to a meeting. When we felt like drinking we called our sponsor or went to a meeting, but we made it through another day…and we felt better about ourselves.
So let’s build more action blocks into our lives. More exercise, more studying, praying, volunteering, writing, working-it’s all good. It doesn’t have to be for hours and hours, but you can start with small increments of time, based on your schedule and needs. The goal is to be consistent, and as you build these healthier habits into your daily schedule to deal with those uncomfortable feelings, you will create a positive momentum that will carry you to your goal of living a healthier life.
Stay Committed and stay hopeful,