Experiencing the blues? No one enjoys the feeling of melancholy. Often, when we experience negative emotions, they influence all aspects of our life. Work, school, family or friend issues become even more sensitive or difficult to handle. Various studies prove how positive emotions greatly affect our health and overall wellness. Not an obvious choice, but thinking about negative emotions in a positive way can also provide benefits and perhaps a completely new perspective.
In general, happy feelings benefit life. However, during the times we feel blue or upset it is important to keep in mind these occasional feelings are inevitable, and importantly, they can be good for us. Psychology has proven that there are many ways to use negative emotions to our advantage, to grow and improve. Here are just a few examples of how negative emotions may be beneficial:
Sadness makes you pay attention to detail.
In an article for UC Berkely, Social Psychologist Joseph F. Forgas discussed how periods of sadness make us pay more attention to external details, which provide a wide range of benefits in information processing. Good moods signal that the situation is safe, familiar, and that existing responses are appropriate. Negative moods in turn signal that the situation is new, challenging, and the greater attention to new information is required to produce an effective response. With these detail-oriented benefits of sadness, our memory improves, the accuracy of our judgements improved, and we are able to be more attentive to changes we should make in our daily lives.
Pessimism prepares you for anything.
In a recent study, psychologists Julie Norem and Nancy Cantor compared optimists to pessimists in a variety of “risky” tasks. Norem says pessimists’ “negative thinking transformed anxiety into action.” Preparing for the worst eliminates the shock that accompanies a negative turn of events, should it happen, and allows us to be quick to respond.
Guilt improves your moral compass.
Guilt, that nagging feeling that comes when we do something wrong, is our moral compass, controlling our levels of social sensitivity and inherent need to be a good person. In his book “The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self – Not Just Your ‘Good’ Self – Drives Success And Fulfillment,” Psychologist Todd Kashdan explains, “adults prone to feeling guilty were less likely to drunk drive, steal, use illegal drugs, or assault another person.” Guilt is the brain’s way of punishing us when we do something wrong and it is a clear indicator of a strong moral compass.
Anxiety turns you into a problem-solver.
Humans’ natural “fight or flight” response, which tells us to either fight against the object of danger or run from it, is related to anxiety. The fight or flight response is automatic; it allows your body to metabolize a lot of energy quickly in order to act quickly in dangerous or uncomfortable situations says Kashdan. In these scenarios anxiety will rule over positive thinking to helps you quickly discover solutions to dangerous problems.
Mindlessness heightens your creativity.
Mindlessness – in other words, “zoning out” might seem bothersome when we’re trying to complete important tasks.However, there are a number of benefits to zoning out, Kashdan tells New York Magazine. Kashdan refers to this time as “the incubation period of creativity,” because our minds are pulled toward unresolved issues and future goals. The benefits of zoning out are often private and personal, which is why they may normally go unnoticed by other people. This is best seen with the “aha!” moment we have all experienced, when a burst of insight about a problem suddenly enters our brains when it’s least expected. It’s when you pay the loosest, most unfocused attention to an issue that you’re able to resolve it.
Jealousy forces you to work harder.
Research has discovered that when people are together in the same room, natural envy arises. Richard Smith, Ph.D., editor of the anthology Envy: Theory and Research explains how we compare intelligence, looks, and ability right away. Psychologists have noted two kinds of envy: malicious, which is driven by a need to make things equal and might involve tearing someone down to achieve that; and benign, which has an admiration and inspirational aspect, where you think that if someone else can do it, so can you. A 2011 study at Tilburg University in the Netherlands discovered that benign envy led students to perform better in school. Someone else accomplishing a goal you’d like to accomplish makes the goal more tangible to you.
Next time feelings emerge that resemble the blues or anxiety, remember that often these feelings are the body’s natural response to help us respond best in the situation.
“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”