This month we’ve talked about understanding emotions, values and how to accumulate positive emotions, and checking the facts. This week we’re talking about opposite action – a strategy you can use to regulate your emotions and change your behavior.
Opposite action is exactly what it sounds like – it’s doing something that is opposite of the emotion you’re feeling. This might sound like the popular saying “fake it ‘til you make it” and it’s not far off. When you’re feeling sad or down, it’s easier to withdraw from the things you like doing and the people around you. While this might feel like the easiest option, it can actually be beneficial for you to do the opposite. Sometimes you can break the cycle of feeling sad or down by doing something you would normally do when you are feeling happy. You may be able to change the way you’re feeling through your behavior.
Opposite action isn’t just for when you’re feeling down, it can be helpful when you’re angry or upset with someone, too. Being kind or doing something nice for someone when you’re not happy with them can seem even more infuriating at the time, but you can take charge of your anger through opposite action. Often, feeling angry doesn’t help us resolve what made us upset in the first place – opposite action can help get you to a place where you can process how you feel and how you want to respond in the future.
While opposite action can be useful, it can be really hard to do in the moment. It’s also important to realize that every emotion you feel is valid and real. The way you feel and respond to a situation or event is useful information that you can use to learn about yourself. Try out opposite action and see if it’s helpful, and if not, try again!