How To Decrease Negativity And Improve Your Emotional Well-Being

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated July 6, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Most individuals experience negativity on occasion, and a certain amount of negative emotions can be a healthy part of life. However, constant negativity may be detrimental to your mental and physical health. In addition, individuals experiencing negativity may have difficulty forming long-term relationships or maintaining positive connections with loved ones. By learning how to decrease negativity, individuals may improve their overall emotional well-being and have a higher quality of life. 

An elderly man in a grey sweater sits in the middle of a couch and gazes off with a sad expression.
Getty/fizkes
Negativity can be difficult to address alone

What causes negativity?

What causes negativity can vary on an individual basis. However, some situations and conditions may increase the amount of negativity a person experiences. Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder can all have symptoms that may contribute to the formation of negative thoughts. For example, depressive disorders can cause individuals to experience feelings of hopelessness, guilt, sadness, and helplessness, which also may lower their perceived self-worth. Depression can also cause physical symptoms, such as gastrointestinal problems, joint pain, back pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and appetite changes. Without treatment, these depression symptoms can be difficult to cope with and may contribute to feelings of negativity. 

Another contributing factor to negativity can be past traumatic experiences. Traumatic events, such as those involving natural disasters, vehicular accidents, dangerous work environments, abuse, or serious illness, may all negatively impact emotional well-being. Research suggests that those who have experienced trauma may be prone to having a negative worldview, which can prime them to expect negative outcomes. In addition, stress-related conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder may make life challenging, which could increase negative thoughts. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing trauma or abuse, it's essential to reach out for help immediately. For those experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-SAFE (7233) for 24/7 support. For those who have or are currently experiencing trauma, please visit our Get Help Now page for more resources. 

Techniques that may help to decrease negativity 

While some sources of negativity, such as mental health conditions and trauma, may require the help of mental health professionals, there are certain ways that individuals can reduce negativity. The National Institutes of Health recommends the following strategies to reduce negative thoughts and improve your emotional well-being. 

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness can refer to the practice of increasing awareness of one’s feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Embracing this mindset may increase a person’s emotional stability and be more present in their day-to-day life. In addition, mindfulness can help individuals identify negative thought patterns and cope with them in healthy ways. One can practice mindfulness through a variety of methods, such as journaling, mindfulness meditation, and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Improve sleep

Getting enough sleep can provide a variety of benefits, such as improved immune system response, lower risk of heart disease, reduced stress, and better cognitive performance. In addition, research suggests that improving sleep is directly associated with better mental health outcomes. This may indicate that proper sleep (seven hours or more depending on age) can help you better regulate your emotions and reduce overall negativity. To improve sleep quality, it may be helpful to engage in effective sleep hygiene habits such as:

    • Sleeping in a dark, quiet environment that is set at a comfortable temperature
    • Exercising in the morning or early afternoon
    • Avoiding the use of electronics and blue light sources before bedtime
    • Avoiding certain substances, such as alcohol, caffeine, and stimulants
    • Keeping a consistent bedtime
    • Getting natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes per day (preferably early in the morning) 
A close up of a woman in a white shirt as she stand near a window and gazes out, deep in thought.
Getty/Ridofranz

Reduce stress

In addition to potentially increasing negativity and harming emotional well-being, stress can have numerous detrimental effects on mental and physical health. These effects may include sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, lower immune system response, digestive issues, and chronic pain. You may be able to reduce stress through a number of activities, such as regular exercise, proper sleep, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or spending time on a hobby or passion. 

Create strong social connections

Strengthening your social connections can be beneficial for emotional health and overall longevity. Individuals with a high level of social connectedness may be more equipped to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression; as a result, they may feel less negative or more capable of coping with negative feelings. To strengthen your social connections, you may want to start by investing time into your existing relationships. This could mean taking your significant other out on regular dates, finding an activity you can do together with your children, or scheduling a regular time to hang out with friends. For those looking for new connections, it may be helpful to look for events in your community, volunteer opportunities, activity groups such as book clubs and intramural sports teams, and adult education courses.     

Find ways to cope with loss

The loss of a loved one can be a challenging situation and understandably create feelings of negativity. While a period of mourning is natural and oftentimes healthy, finding ways to cope or avoid overwhelm can be essential for preserving your emotional well-being. Self-care techniques such as a healthy diet, exercise, and proper sleep can be effective coping techniques. In addition, discussing your grief with friends and family may also be helpful. If you find yourself struggling with loss and unable to cope, it can also be beneficial to seek the assistance of a mental health professional. 

Build resilience

Mental resilience can refer to the ability to handle stressful situations and setbacks without being overwhelmed or succumbing to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Resilience may also help protect individuals from mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, while also reducing the potential negative impact of trauma. To build resistance, it may be beneficial to develop healthy habits such as a healthy diet and frequent physical activity. In addition, practicing gratitude and self-awareness may also help you to view situations objectively and avoid focusing on negative emotions. 

Other techniques may help you reduce negativity as well, such as engaging in positive thinking. Research suggests that positive thinking can improve resilience and life satisfaction. Positive thinking may also reduce heart attack risk, help you form stronger relationships with loved ones, increase self-esteem, and boost longevity.           

One activity that may increase positive thinking is reframing, which involves analyzing a situation from a positive perspective rather than a negative one. For example, if you are taking a vacation and your flight is delayed, you may become irritated that your itinerary has changed. Positive thinking would encourage you to instead view the situation optimistically; in this case, by looking forward to the fun you’ll have once you arrive at your destination or by being grateful that you get to take a trip in the first place. 

Another way to encourage positive thinking could be to keep a journal. By writing down your thoughts and experiences, as well as how you feel about them, you may become more aware of the patterns in which you think. If you notice that you are frequently looking at the most pessimistic aspects or situations, that may help you to shift your perspective to be more optimistic. In addition, journaling can help you avoid negative self-talk, which refers to the inner criticism some individuals face. Left unaddressed, negative self-talk can harm your self-esteem and cause you to question your abilities; through journaling, you can identify this negative self-talk and reframe how you think.

However, positive thinking can only go so far. Trying to identify negative thoughts or reframe your perspective on your own can be challenging. In many cases, it may be helpful to discuss negativity struggles with a therapist or counselor. 

A man sits in a grey arm chair across from his male therapist as he listens to him talk during a therapy session.
Getty/SDI Productions
Negativity can be difficult to address alone

Can therapy help with negativity? 

Therapy can be an effective way to identify negative thought patterns and replace them with more positive ones. Therapeutic methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy can also be beneficial for a variety of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, and psychosis. Even for those without a mental health condition, therapy can be an effective way to address challenges and improve emotional well-being.

While therapy is often associated with a traditional face-to-face format, in-person sessions may not be convenient or available for all individuals. In many cases, online therapy can be a convenient alternative for those who want to attend therapy in the comfort of their own home. Research shows that online therapy has comparable effectiveness to in-person therapy for a number of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Takeaway

While some amount of negativity may be expected in certain situations, constant negativity may impact your mental health and emotional well-being. There are several ways you may be able to reduce negativity, such as practicing mindfulness, improving sleep, lowering stress levels, building social support, learning loss coping methods, and improving your sense of resilience. However, many individuals may benefit from seeking the assistance of a mental health professional. By speaking with a therapist or counselor, you may be able to get to the root of your negativity struggles and find ways to be more positive in your day-to-day life.
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