A healthy emotional life is not about never experiencing negative emotions, but learning how to channel them in positive and constructive ways.
Here are some activities that are often effective in taking emotions like sadness, anger, or grief, and then using them to learn something about ourselves or creating a more fulfilling and meaningful life.
50 ways to constructively channel negative emotions
1. Play an instrument as a way to express yourself through sound.
2. Listen to music that fits your mood (see how to use music to manage your emotions).
3. Paint or draw as a way to express yourself through pictures (see creativity and happiness).
4. Create a personal diary, journal, or blog to keep track of your thoughts, feelings, and experiences (see the power of writing).
5. Dance as a fun way to exercise and release built up negative emotions and stress.
6. Go to the gym or workout (see the connection between physical and mental health).
7. Go some place where you can yell at the top of your lungs (sometimes it can be a helpful release of built up tension).
8. Watch a movie that echoes how you feel and provides a happy or inspirational ending.
9. Do yoga, tai chi, or some other mind-body exercise to release the physical stress behind your emotions.
10. Speak your thoughts and feelings to someone who is willing to listen.
11. Write a short story that focuses on similar thoughts and emotions to what you are experiencing.
12. Donate to a cause that you really believe in.
13. Ask yourself, “What are my emotions trying to tell me?” Often there is a thought process behind what we feel that we can learn from.
14. Learn how to reframe a negative situation in a more positive or productive light (see quick tips for reframing your perspective).
15. Do something kind for someone. Often creating pleasant feelings for others increases our own well-being (get started with one of these 30 acts of kindness).
16. Go out to your local park or a nature preserve. Nature can often help us get outside of our minds and appreciate the world around us more.
17. Photography, find a good place to take pictures. Then look through your set and find 1 or 2 photos that really speak to your current emotions.
18. Go for a drive with no particular destination in mind.
19. Lift weights or hit a punching bag to release stress.
20. Play a stimulating video game.
21. View anxiety or stress as motivators to act, not things that inhibit you (see the hidden power of anxiety).
22. Write a poem or song lyrics about what’s on your mind.
23. Practice a self-love meditation (see improve feelings of self-love in 5 minutes).
24. Try to solve a puzzle. It’ll help occupy your mind with something else, rather than just ruminating over the same problems (see challenge your brain – and other ways to maintain cognitive fitness).
25. Go outside for a light walk to help clear your mind.
26. Reflect on negative experiences and see what you can learn from them (read more at reflection improves learning).
27. Meditate on your thoughts and emotions without being judgmental. Don’t label them as “good” or “bad” – just accept them for what they are.
28. Channel your emotions into a competitive sport, like basketball or football.
29. Consider star gazing as an opportunity to stop and reflect on the bigger things in life (try the sky gazing meditation).
30. Respectfully confront someone who may be responsible for how you feel.
31. Engage in a simple pleasure to remind yourself of the finer things in life (such as a dessert or your favorite TV show).
32. Learn how to take criticism constructively, rather than letting it just get you sad or frustrated (see how to take criticism like a champ).
33. If a negative emotion is motivating you to do something destructive, try doing the exact opposite of what you feel.
34. Read a novel that temporarily takes you into a new world.
35. Join a forum or online support group that shares similar troubles.
36. Use negative relationships in the past as a resource to improve relationships in the future.
37. When reflecting on negative events in your life, try to see how they may have made you a better person. Often these experiences can build resilience in the long-term (psychologist refer to this as post-traumatic growth).
38. Channel your anger or other “high charged” emotions to drive you to be more productive.
39. Make tedious work more fun to help manage boredom or apathy (see blur the line between work and play).
40. Use stress or fatigue as a sign to take a break or enjoy some leisure time (see 50 stress relievers that take 5 minutes or less).
41. Wake up early and watch the sunrise. Learn to appreciate every new day as a clean slate.
42. Label your fears when you experience them and they become easier to face (see labeling negative emotions can help you overcome them).
43. Surround yourself with positive and supporting friends and family who can quickly turn your mood around.
44. Use your emotional energy to create positive affirmations that motivate you to grow and improve (see 75 affirmations for self improvement).
45. Find something to be grateful (see be grateful for your senses).
46. Channel your emotions and write your own daily prayer to help motivate and inspire yourself (see write your own daily prayer).
47. Think about role models in your life who may have overcome similar obstacles (see how we find motivation in other people’s struggles).
48. Use your energy to clean, organize, or redecorate your home or office space.
49. Read some inspirational quotes (see quotes I’ve collected).
50. Indulge in one of life’s simple pleasures (see 50 simple pleasures to brighten your day).
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