We’re often told to look on the bright side, see the glass half-full or fake a smile when we’re going through a hard time and experiencing negative emotions. But as a recent, small study suggests, negative emotions like sadness and anger may also play a role in good health and well-being.
Turns out, ignoring, evading or making light of those feelings might not actually be good for mental health. According to an Olin College of Engineering study recently published in the journal Plos One, a mixed emotional experience is associated with and a precursor to improvements in well-being.
“We found that those participants who were making meaning out of their experiences with a mixture of happiness and sadness actually showed increases in their psychological well-being, compared to people who were just reporting sadness, just reporting happiness, or some other mixture of emotions,” Jonathan Adler, assistant professor of psychology at Olin and one of the study’s authors, told HuffPost Live. “It seems that there is something to be gained for your mental health in taking both the good and the bad together.”
The researchers followed a group of subjects through the early stages of psychotherapy to examine their emotional expression and psychological welfare. They determined that those who expressed mixed emotions — instead of pushing away the negative ones to focus on the positive — showed the greatest increases in well-being.
The bottom line? We don’t have to feel bad about feeling bad. It’s possible to actually be okay with feeling unhappy, explains Jay Michaelson, author of “Evolving Dharma.”
“It’s relaxation of the mind that leads to the true happiness,” Michaelson told HuffPost Live. “It’s more about feeling a sense of ease with whatever arises, including feeling lousy sometimes.”
Watch the video click above, and click here for seven tips for accepting and releasing negative emotions.