I think this article is particularly important for the present time that we are all living in, coping with a global pandemic. It is helpful to understand what your mind is paying attention to because what you pay attention to, grows.
Something happens and gives you a negative emotion. What you do with it next in your head can give you a secondary negative feeling.
This article is to help you avoid secondary negative emotion and stop your feelings from going from bad to worse.
Have you ever noticed that if you are having a painful thought or mood, that it can get much worse when you mull things over in your head?
This article will be of interest to you if you have
A problematic thought may occur randomly, or you could experience an unpleasant emotion. More often than not, if the thought stays, or if the feeling intensifies, it is due to something that you are doing.
Let me start with an example. Let’s say you are feeling just fine, and I insult you. Naturally, this could make you feel bad; your mood has changed. The change in mood occurs pretty much automatically, and there is not much you can do about it, but you can choose what happens next.
If you can move quickly past the insult; the pain will fade, and your mood will return to normal. However, most of us don’t work that way. You might try to ‘make sense of it’ by going over it again and again in your mind.
The pain intensifies, and you might now be feeling anger at me!
I want to introduce you to the element of choice.
If I insult you, you can choose what to do next. You can quickly weigh it up in your head; was it a flippant insult, will your life change because of it?
If it was a small matter, you could decide to do nothing. Doing nothing does not make you a pushover; rather, it gives you control over your emotional state.
Many people get stuck at this bit. They want to defend themselves and stand their ground.
It might be easier if I flipped the example and pretend that you insulted me. If you insulted me and I decided that it was a small matter I have two choices;
- mull it over
- Do nothing
What happens if I mull it over?
I am still hurt. I am now thinking of other times that you hurt my feelings as my brain will want to make connections with what is happening now. These connections are not helping, but that’s how the brain works.
I am now angry, and it has nothing to do with the initial insult. I am mad as I also remembered something that you did last year that I did not like!
My feelings not only intensify, now I have a new negative emotion to spoil my day – anger.
If I choose to ignore the insult as I weighed it up quickly in my mind and realised it was not significant, my mood returns to normal. I am not doing anything that will intensify the emotion or create other negative thought processes.
An important point to note
Misery loves company. If you mull it over in your head, your brain will quickly link other instances when I annoyed you.
You will find it hard to see all the other times when I did not annoy you or my company was neutral.
What happens if you mull over coronavirus.
You might hear something on the news that impacts your mood. If you find that you are mulling over coronavirus, you are unwittingly paying more attention to the things that will negatively impact your mood. If you mull it over or search for more news articles, you are unintentionally growing the negative emotion.
If you can move on quickly, your mood will return to normal.
Unfortunately, we do not see that we have a choice, and more often than not will end up with a mood much worse than the initial trigger warranted.
How to move on and not mull it over in your head
If you have an anxious thought, you can label it as that. Rather than going into the content of the thought and analysing, just tell yourself
“I am having an anxious thought”
“I just had a thought about coronavirus”
And carry on with what you were doing before the thought arrived.
The one thing that I would like you to take from this article is that you have a choice when something is making you anxious.
Most of the time, you will not be aware that you have a choice and will default into the analysis, which will make you feel worse by intensifying the emotion and giving you secondary feeling.
By secondary emotion, I mean the initial thought or feeling is what hurt you first; you have no control over that. Mulling it over in your head is what gives you the secondary pain and this you have control over if you exercise choice.