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The Art of Releasing Negative Emotions

THE COACHING ACADEMY BLOG

As we approach the end of the year we inevitably start to think about the past and the future. Emotions get jumbled up and often it's the negative memories that surface first. In a year as challenging as 2020, it can be especially hard to release the negative energy of chaos and uncertainty that has been our daily companion for 9 months now. Let's correct that!

New year, new you – right? As cheesy as this might sound, many of us long for it. How many new years have passed with you dreaming up new ideas, goals, desires? Something to change in your life, however small it may be. It’s part of growth. 

But something new starting means that something has to end. We have to let go of one bag to pick up another. And you might feel that this year, that emotional bag is especially heavy. 

Heavy with negative thoughts, with anxiety, grief, anger, tiredness, somehow hopeless and hopeful at the same time. It is important to release these emotions from time to time and if you didn’t focus on this regularly, the end of the year gives you a great opportunity to let go of all the negative emotions that will not serve you in the new year.  

So what can we do – now and in the future – to release negative emotions? Here are some steps you can take to get started.

Step 1: Breathe 

Your brain and body need oxygen to function properly. Mindful breathing can help calm a foggy mind and strengthen your muscles.  

Several types of breath patterns will help you calm down, from the simplest to the more complicated. You may choose simple deep inhales and exhales, might prefer a triangle pattern ( inhale for 4 seconds – hold for 7 seconds – exhale for 8 seconds) or the box pattern ( inhale 4 seconds – hold for 4 seconds – exhale for 4 seconds – hold for 4 seconds).  

So before you get started with anything else, take a few minutes to breathe deeply with a straight back - standing, sitting, lying down, however you feel most comfortable. 

Moving forward:

What matters is that you allow yourself that 1 minute where you simply focus on your breath. You can do it in your car before you walk through the door from work or in your chair for a short break to re-energize yourself. 

Step 2: Shake it out 

Your body stores negative emotions for far longer than you realize. While you have consciously forgotten the first week of lockdown, your body remembers how you felt anxious during the daily briefings and the fist balls from all the event and holiday cancellations in April. 

So your job is to help your body release that negative energy. Shake it out, jump around or dance – all of these activities will help. 

Moving forward:

Take it a step further by moving 30 minutes a day. Whether it’s a cardio workout, weight training or a simple walk. This is one of the most fundamental habits that is proven to help keep your body fit and healthy. Your body will thank you profoundly and you’ll see reduced stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Step 3: Name it and point to it

Most of our negative emotions start wreaking havoc when we don’t know exactly what they are. You know that feeling when you’re irritated and snap at people? As soon as you become aware of it, instead of ignoring it with ‘I don’t know why I feel this way’, try to label it. 

Feeling angry? Go deeper. Do you actually feel let down or critical? Feeling betrayed or resentful? Natalie Costa advocates helping kids expand their emotional vocabulary but actually, adults could make great use of the wheel of emotions too. 

Moving forward: 

We liked this one. Print it out, look it up on google or save it to your phone for easy access. And next time you feel an uncomfortable feeling, try to name exactly what you’re feeling. 

This will take away from the power of the mysterious, uncontrollable feeling and put it back into your hands. 

Once you name it, try to pinpoint it – where do you feel this emotion? In your head? In your palms? Where did it start? Your stomach? Your chest? 

Pinpoint it as best as possible. This will allow you to recognize it easier in the future. 

Take a step further and address it.

In a recent Coaching Conversation with Kris Thorne, she talked about managing thoughts and emotions and she shared her best tips to address it. ‘Here comes worry again’ or ‘It’s the old story of resentfulness again’. Try changing the voice to a cartoon character, a radio presenter or put it into a song and this will help neutralize it. 

Step 4: Journal 

As coaches, we know how powerful the written word can be. But did you know that it might give you a window onto your subconscious thoughts? 

Free-form journaling is useful in many ways and you might already be using it in your goal-setting. It’s also useful to try to figure what are subconscious is worried about. 

A useful technique might be to sit down and write 3+ pages with the intention of releasing your negative emotions. You might start by writing about that annoying person who wasn’t wearing a mask in the shop and move on to all the work that’s overwhelming you. But after these surface emotions, you’ll start to go deeper. 

When you think to yourself – I don’t know what to write anymore, push past that because that’s when the real magic starts. 

Moving forward: 

If you enjoy the written form, look into journaling. Used regularly, it may prove an effective means of releasing thoughts that don’t serve you, getting clarity and other benefits. 

Step 5: Use prompts 

Most might prefer to use a notebook to journal, but feel free to use a canvas to paint or a recording device and talk into. Use these questions as prompts to reflect on. 

  • What are some feelings I felt back at the beginning of lockdown that don’t serve me anymore? 
  • What are some thoughts I had this year that don’t serve me anymore?
  • What does my inner child think about this past year and what does it need in the coming month/year?
  • What does my inner critic think about this past year and what does it need in the coming month/year?
  • What is something I need to accept? 
  • What is something I need regularly to be at my best? 
  • What do I want to feel next month/year? 

Moving forward: 

Make this a monthly habit! Adjust the questions as needed and add new ones if they would benefit you. 

Additional ideas that will help you release negative emotions. 

1. Go out into nature

Whether it’s going outside for a walk, having a coffee in the nearby park or going for a morning hike – being in nature has tremendous health benefits. (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/nature-and-mental-health/how-nature-benefits-mental-health/) 

It helps calm the mind, reduces stress and anxiety and it also gives you a different perspective on life. You might find that by looking at some flowers and enjoying the sunshine, everything is not as hopeless as you’d think it is. 

2. Mindfulness

Some people might think that mindfulness is the skill of being present. Actually, it’s a practice of coming back to the present moment over and over again. 

Meditation helps some people. There are grounding exercises you can try. Behaviour experts Kate Baily and Mandy Manners shared a great exercise in one of our latest Coaching Conversations, the 5-4-3-2-1 method. Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste. 

Curiosity is a great way to implement mindfulness in your walks. So is watching the clouds above you if you’re sitting. 

Whatever your preference is, remember that mindfulness is not about staying present, it’s about bringing back your awareness to the present when you notice it’s drifting – again and again. 

This state of calm will allow your brain to make new connections, and perhaps your mind can notice a different perspective from the one that it’s used to. It allows you to reset to a balanced state so that you can move forward proactively instead of reactively. 


Releasing emotions can be a daily routine or a monthly exercise. Just like art, these exercises are subjective and you will decide for yourself which ones work for you and which ones you don’t work. Wherever your preference lies, implement some or all these ideas and watch that negative energy move away from you. 

And now it’s your turn – Do you practice any of the techniques we shared? What else helps you release negative emotions and energy? 

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