Wellbeing

Proof that embracing negative emotions is GOOD for you

Listening to negative feelings benefits psychological health

It may sound like an angsty teenage dream, though loving your dark side is actually good for you.

By embracing your negative emotions, rather than squishing them down inside, you are drastically improving your wellbeing.

The reason being that accepting life’s ups and downs means you are more relaxed when the downs arrive, whereas by ignoring them or being angry at yourself for feeling them, can have major repercussions for your psychological health.

It is thought that negative emotions are actually essential for survival as they hold vital clues for potential risk, such as our health, relationships, or at work.

By listening to them, they guide us towards solutions rather than further problems.

[Credit: Tammy Gann]

A new study, conducted at the University of California in Berkeley, explored this link between emotional acceptance and state of mind.

The results showed that people who habitually accept negative emotions actually experience fewer negative emotions, which means better psychological health.

In contrast, those who tried to resist feelings such as sadness reported a higher number of mood disorder symptoms than those who welcomed them.

One of the study’s authors, Iris Mauss, explained: “Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention.

“And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

[Credit: Usman Yousaf]

Fellow researcher Brett Ford supported this claim, explaining that how we approach our own negative emotional reactions is really important for overall wellbeing.

Brett said: “People who accept these emotions without judging or trying to change them are able to cope with their stress more successfully.”

The experiment invited participants to complete surveys rating how strongly they agreed with statements, such as, ‘I tell myself I shouldn’t be feeling the way I am’.

This was followed by a task that involved delivering a short speech to a panel of judges as part of a mock job application, with just two minutes to prepare.

Those taking part were then asked to rate their emotions about the experience, with people that typically avoid negative feelings reporting more feelings of distress.

[Credit: Kat J]

Finally, participants were asked to journal about challenging experiences over a fortnight. Six months later, when quizzed about their wellbeing, those who had avoided negativity displayed more mood disorder symptoms than those who hadn’t.

These studies are just the beginning of exploring human psychology and whether we are predestined to think a certain way.

Next, Mauss and her colleagues hope to examine how culture and upbringing may influence why some people are more accepting of negative emotions than others.

She said: “By asking parents about their attitudes about their children’s emotions, we may be able to predict how their children feel about their emotions, and how that might affect their children’s mental health.”

So, next time you feel down, listen! It’s your body’s way of talking to you.

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