If someone asked you whether the average person tends to feel more negative or positive emotions, what would you say? You might be surprised to learn the answer: While we all have an innate negativity bias that’s evolutionarily designed to help us survive, researchers have found that people tend to experience positive emotions 2.5 times more often than negative ones.
But it’s the unprocessed negative ones that can build up over time, lead to blocks and cause problems that affect our overall well-being. The problem is that we don’t always know how to release trapped emotions, especially if we don’t feel confident or safe in expressing ourselves to others.
We believe everyone deserves to experience total emotional health and freedom, so we’re providing you with these self-help techniques for releasing emotions stored in the body. Practicing these whenever necessary may help you let go and move on so you can experience greater joy and well-being in your life.
01 — Forgiveness Meditation
Forgiveness is arguably one of the most difficult things we as humans can do, yet it can also produce profound, even life-changing results. This forgiveness meditation practice developed by Buddhist meditation expert Jack Kornfield is designed to help you let go of painful emotions from past hurts that were done to you by someone else. Remember that forgiveness is not something you can force, and it doesn’t mean you condone what’s happened. But when you’re ready (and you’ll know when the time is right), this practice may help you find a sense of greater peace.
- Sit in a quiet spot where you’ll be undisturbed for at least 20 minutes and close your eyes.
- Make sure you have a peaceful environment, maybe light some candles, then conjure up the image of the event or person that you want to release and forgive.
- Feel any emotions that arise and believe that you can release these feelings when the moment is right.
- Mentally say the following words: “I have experienced this pain for too long. If my heart is ready, I offer my forgiveness to this person. Although you have caused me harm, I am ready to forgive you and release this pain to the universe.”
- Continue to repeat these words until you feel an emotional release, which may not be an instant response, so you may need to practice this meditation several times or more.
02 — Progressive Relaxation for Stress and Anxiety
When you hold onto stress, your body and mind pay for it. This exercise is a daily practice to help you become aware of how you store stress in your body and how you can mindfully release it. For an added benefit, we suggest combining this exercise with our Broad Spectrum Hemp Oil or Broad Spectrum Hemp Softgels to help you calm down, focus and relax more fully.
- Lie on your bed and cover yourself with a thin blanket so you’ll stay warm but not too hot.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep, mindful breaths.
- Progressively tense each major muscle group in your body, starting with your feet and working all the way up to your head.
- Inhale, tense each muscle for 5–10 seconds, and then release and let go. Exhale any negativity or unhelpful emotions each time you release. Pause for a few seconds to notice the difference in how your body feels before you move on to the next muscle group.
03 — Screaming Exercise for Anger
All too often, we suppress our feelings of anger because they’re “socially unacceptable,” yet it’s these very feelings that we need to express and release so they don’t get out of control — or control us.
For this exercise, you’ll just need to have a pillow and a place where you’ll feel comfortable making some noise (it can be your car, a storage room, a room in your house, or any other place where others can’t hear you). Focus on the situation or person that’s making you angry, and allow yourself to fully feel your anger (maybe play some angry music if you need some help getting there) — let it build up inside of you, then scream as loudly as you can into your pillow. Do this several times, and then beat the pillow against the wall, your couch, the passenger seat in your car, or another inanimate object that won’t cause harm to you or others so you can release your anger and let it go.
04 — “Crashing” for Sadness Technique
Sadness seems to be one of the most difficult feelings for a lot of people, but it can be so cathartic to give yourself permission to just feel sad when you need to. Sometimes, you might need extra help to get the tears flowing, especially if you can’t quite pinpoint the reasons that you feel sad but you know there’s “something” beneath the surface that wants to come out.
Try free-writing for five minutes, focusing on the feeling of sadness. Don’t edit yourself, just allow whatever comes up to come up and let the sadness be there. Then try the “crashing” exercise, as life coach Nancy Levin suggests, by putting on some sad music or watching a sad movie to help you cry and experience a release.
05 — Journaling Therapy for Disappointment
It can be difficult to get over feelings of disappointment when things don’t turn out the way that we’d hoped, but getting in touch with those feelings is crucial for helping you let them go and move on.
In a journal, write down the exact details of the situation that’s causing you distress and try to identify the specific reasons for your disappointment. For example, you could write, “I was really disappointed that I didn’t get the promotion. I was so sure that it was a done deal,” and also write about who else was involved and the role they may have played.
Then sit for a few moments and try to see the positive in the situation — how can this negative actually be a potential catalyst for growth? You can’t control everything, but perhaps you can figure out and write down a few ways to take action in order to improve the situation for the future.
06 — Speaking to the Earth for Grief Release
In her blog, functional medicine practitioner Dr. Cynthia Li explains that this exercise is performed in many cultures around the world to help release feelings of grief and loss. Find a place in nature where you feel safe. Dig a small hole in the ground that you can speak into, and then express all of your feelings of loss and pain into the hole. Let yourself cry if you can, and allow your tears to fall into the hole. Then sit on the ground and let yourself feel supported and grounded as you cover the hole back up and give thanks to the earth for containing and accepting your grief.
One Final Caveat
Keep in mind that for some emotions, you may need to enlist the help of a qualified professional, especially if you’re experiencing overwhelming pain or have a mental health condition. Also remember that these practices are not intended for traumatic memories or events — consult a therapist to help you work through those feelings.
Stacy Mosel, LMSW, is a licensed social worker and psychotherapist. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music from the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a master of social work degree in 2002. She writes in the fields of mental health and holistic wellness, drawing on her prior experiences as an employee assistance program counselor, individual and family therapist and assistant director of a child and family services agency.