How to Turn Negativity Into Positivity

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Good Vibes, Good Life" by Vex King. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Can you transmute negative emotions? How can you turn negative emotions into your greatest advantage?

If the negative emotion you’re feeling is not appropriate based on the situation, it doesn’t serve you—it’s only making you miserable. The good news is that emotional states are malleable—you can transform negative emotions into positive ones.

Here’s how to turn negativity into positivity, according to mind coach Vex King.

Turn Your Bad Emotions Into Good Ones

By paying attention to how you feel, you can recognize and turn negativity into positivity.

King recommends doing this by first identifying the emotion you feel—is it anger, jealousy, sadness, regret? Then, consider whether these feelings are appropriate—have you made false assumptions, exaggerated the situation, or had a misunderstanding? 

Next, think about the underlying reason you had the feelings—does it stem from insecurity, fear of abandonment, or lack of trust? Now replace the negative emotion by thinking of something positive—remember a time you felt the opposite emotion. Finally, think of how you can rewire your response to avoid the negative reaction next time a similar situation occurs. That’s how to turn negativity into positivity.

How to Benefit From Negative Emotions

In Awaken the Giant Within, Tony Robbins agrees with King that we can reach a more positive state of mind by redirecting our negative emotions into positive ones, and adds that these negative emotions can even be a blessing in disguise. He explains that emotions are internal feedback of external stimuli—when we do or experience something that feels right, we feel positive emotions, and when we do or experience something that feels wrong, we experience negative emotions. So, negative emotions are invaluable because they guide us toward the life we want and away from the life we don’t. However, while negative emotions can guide us in the right direction, we also can’t let them control our state of mind. 

To process your emotions in a healthy way, Robbins recommends six steps:

  1. Identify and rationalize the emotion: When we experience negative emotions we can easily become so overwhelmed that we’re unable to pinpoint exactly what we’re feeling. So, take a moment to identify the feeling—jealousy, anger, sadness, disappointment—and then consider whether the circumstances of the situation warrant this response. For example, maybe your friend couldn’t meet because she’s busy studying for a big exam. Robbins says this will immediately take the sting away. Robbins’ first step is a combination of King’s first two recommendations—identify the emotions and consider whether or not they’re appropriate.
  2. Embrace the emotion: Resist the urge to label the emotion as bad or wrong and simply embrace it as feedback that will help you learn.
  3. Decode your emotion: Now that you know the emotion is feedback, consider what the feedback is telling you—maybe you should be more considerate about what your friends are going through before getting upset that they can’t meet your requests. Maybe you need to change your beliefs or actions to prevent the negative feelings from happening again.
  4. Remember that emotions are temporary: Negative feelings always pass. To help you get over it, think of times you’ve felt this way in the past and consider what helped you get over it. This is similar to King’s recommendation to consider a past experience where you’ve felt the opposite emotion—both techniques use past experiences to create a path to positivity in the present.
  5. Use this experience as a reference for the future: Reflect on what you’ve learned and come up with a few additional strategies that will help you handle the emotion if it happens again in the future.
  6. Reinforce what you’ve learned: Take action to show that you’ve overcome the emotions—for example, take your friend out to lunch after her exam to congratulate her on her hard work and dedication.
How to Turn Negativity Into Positivity

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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.

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