“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.” – Gretchen Rubin

Look in the mirror. See that grumpy face staring back at you? What you’re feeling inside is coming to the surface to let you know that all is not where it needs to be right now. Those tears you can’t stop shedding? They’re tangible evidence of a powerfully negative emotion that you must deal with to get on with life.

Other negative emotions that play out in interactions with others and because of inaction or unwillingness to confront a situation that needs to change include jealousy, shame, loneliness, anger, remorse, vindictiveness, and a desire to hurt others or oneself.

In fact, at times it’s easier to discern a negative emotion than a positive one. Peace, love and happiness show a similar face. Maybe that’s a sign of uniformity of purpose. When you’re happy, in love, at peace, you’re positive and in a good place. No wonder someone who’s not in such a good place will have such a hard time being around you. They’d really like to escape from their own negativity, but find it difficult to do.

First steps you can take

When it’s you that’s experiencing negative emotions, the first step to overcoming them is to acknowledge their presence. All it takes is a quick glance in the mirror to know they’re there. But getting past those negative and often painful emotions will take a little bit of work.

The most important question is: Are you willing to change? Perhaps some of what’s making you miserable is that you don’t know what to do to resolve the situation. Take the time to figure out what caused the negativity and you’ll have a good starting point for change.

If you feel stunted in your career, is it that you’re not receiving the recognition you deserve or feel you should have? Are you disappointed in yourself for not pursuing advancement? Are you jealous that someone else got the promotion instead of you?

While your work is cut out for you, sitting down to figure out a plan to satisfy your desire to advance in your job will jumpstart positivity. You will arrive at a strategy that you can then elect to pursue. After that, it’s up to you to do the work to make the change happen.

Sometimes, however, it’s not any life-changing situation that produces the negativity. You could be bored, disinterested in your everyday life, or feel bogged down with responsibility and lacking the opportunity to have fun. Again, these are signs that there’s something you need to do to change.

Find a hobby, join a group, make some new friends, push yourself to do things that aren’t in your comfort zone but that hold some interest. When you make it a point to get outside your troubles and problems, even minor ones, you’ll start feeling more positive. You’ll also be more receptive to the changes you want and need to make.

Could depression be at fault?

What if you’ve tried and failed to overcome negative emotions? This might be caused by an underlying condition of depression, especially if the feelings are persistent and get in the way of everyday life. Here’s where seeking professional help can make a profound difference. Counseling from a psychiatrist or psychologist or other mental health professional will benefit you greatly, helping you sort out your emotions, identify dreams, choose goals and craft action plans to achieve them.

Remember that everyone experiences ups and downs. It’s not the if, but the when this occurs. How you overcome negativity is a purely personal decision, yet it makes sense to initiate the process earlier rather than later. After all, isn’t the point of life to live it to the fullest, to enjoy maximum productivity, sense of purposefulness, and well-being?

If all this seems like too much work and you’re thinking it will take more time than you want to devote to it, ask yourself what matters most. If your current efforts aren’t allowing you to achieve your goals and to realize your heartfelt dreams, maybe it’s worth taking the time to get at the root of some negative behaviors, poor self-care, self-sabotage and other aspects of unhappiness and negativity.