How to Deal With Negative Emotions: Practice Gratitude

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Effortless" by Greg McKeown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

Do you tend to hold on to negative emotions? How can you lessen the pull of negative feelings and take control of your emotional state?

The more you focus on negative emotions, the less mental bandwidth you have to focus on important things. Negative emotions can be hard to escape, but there are plenty of things you can do to lessen their hold on you. 

Here’s how to deal with negative emotions, according to Greg McKeown.

Free Yourself of Emotional Burdens

McKeown claims that your cognitive tendencies can strongly impact your ability to work effortlessly. If you wish to get the most out of your time and energy, learn to let go of negative emotions such as fear and anger and express gratitude as much as possible.

When you face adversity or perceive injustices in the world, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of complaints, regrets, and other negative thoughts. To counteract this, McKeown recommends being grateful for the things you have.

Gratitude not only prevents negative emotions from arising but also promotes positive side effects, such as creativity and social connection. When you find yourself complaining, try to replace that complaint with something you’re grateful for. Eventually, this practice will help you foster a more positive attitude toward the world around you.

Ways to Counteract Negative Emotions

McKeown isn’t the first to recognize the influence negativity has on our mental and physical well-being. In The Chimp Paradox, Steve Peters maintains that chronic stress, which can lead to depression, anxiety, fatigue, and a weakened immune system, is often caused by negative habits of thought. Without realizing it, people exacerbate their problems, make excuses, and even let their anxiety invent entirely new problems.

In addition to McKeown’s strategy of practicing gratitude, try Norman Vincent Peale’s advice on how to deal with negative emotions in The Power of Positive Thinking

  • Actively avoid self-pity, as it only makes things worse.
  • Lessen your emotional reactions by limiting your physical responses. Our emotions usually manifest in physical forms, such as a clenched fist. Simply limiting the physical reaction can lessen the emotional one. Instead of clenching a fist or gritting your teeth, close your eyes and take a deep breath. 
  • Remind yourself that anger doesn’t accomplish anything. 
  • Write down what’s bothering you and discuss with a friend or family member.
How to Deal With Negative Emotions: Practice Gratitude

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Greg McKeown's "Effortless" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Effortless summary:

  • Why you don't need to hustle and burn out to achieve your goals
  • Why the easiest path to success is the most viable
  • Actionable advice for how to achieve effortless success in life

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.