We tend to evade or minimize our negative emotions in our relentless search for happiness. In truth, not only are such feelings inevitable; they can also play a key role in our health and well-being. A brief study at Olin University, published earlier this year, revealed that feeling at ease while experiencing expressing mixed emotions indicated improvements in well-being, while ignoring mixed emotions did not.
Assistant psychology professor Jonathan Adler, an author of the study, said that those who made meaning from their happiness-sadness mixture actually improved psychologically compared to those who reported only one or the other or a different mix of emotions. Clearly, there is something to be gained by taking in both the good and the bad.
Letting negative emotions become a source of guilt can aggravate them and dilute their benefits. If we respond to them well, negative emotions can be a springboard for positive emotions and realizations. The following six negative emotions are worth embracing.
Anger can be fueled into creativity.
Science suggests that negative emotions can both stifle and spark creativity. Ghent University researches recently studied the habits of a hundred creative professionals, having them rate their emotions each morning and evening. Those who started the day with bad feelings but ended it with good ones had the highest creative output — they channeled their anger into their work, 99U reported. The researchers found, in a separate experiment, that negative emotions helped brainstorming subjects focus longer.
David Burkus, author ofMyths of Creativity, said when one is in a bad mood, returning to a particularly difficult problem that has stalled out may be best. Negative emotion is like fuel that can be burnt on the path to creation, helping to dig deeper into the problem and find a solution that one could never have found while happy.
Struggling with adversity can profoundly alter your perspective.
There might be some truth to the cliché “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.” Life’s biggest challenges can be great growth opportunities; many who have had near-death experiences have found them to be blessings in disguise that altered their perspectives fundamentally, helping them see what’s really important in life. These unexpected gifts can sometimes come in the form of a new career path or direction in life, as when a cancer victim became a health expert and even wrote bestsellers.
Working through shame can cultivate compassion.
Shame — what makes us avoid others for fear of seeing our hidden flaws — can be overcome. We can build greater connections with others and become more compassionate.
Pessimism can increase productivity.
Optimism not tempered by pessimism in some degree may not be productive. Indeed, it’s the ability to see what could go wrong in a given situation that turns some people into “strategic optimists.”
Envy can spur you to become better.
Identify what you envy. You can have whatever you want if you can identify it.
Loss can lead to gratitude.
It can lead us to be thankful for what we have.
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