Don’t Put On A Happy Face – Negative emotions serve a purpose
I’ve noticed a theme over these past few months. Several people have told me how they’re trying to be positive and upbeat, but it’s been really hard lately. After talking more, it turns out they were feeling sad about a loss; in some cases it was a loss of health, of a job, or of loved ones. But they didn’t want to burden others so they tried to hide it. I suggested they give themselves permission to be sad.
A common misconception about increasing our positivity is that we aren’t suppose to feel bad and we certainly shouldn’t let others know we are feeling sad, frustrated, or worried. But negative emotions are totally normal, and they serve a purpose. Without them, we would not have survived as a species.
In his article, Beyond Happiness: The Upside of Feeling Down, Matthew Hutson comments that “Negative emotions do us a great favor: They save us from ourselves. They’re signals urging us to change what we’re doing—and they’re actually necessary for feeling good.” Research indicates that accepting negative feelings such as sadness can actually lower depression. It helps us avoid the extra burden of feeling bad for feeling bad.
Matthew points out that “Sadness also functions as a signal to others that we may need help.” When we share our real feelings with others, it reveals our humanity and can actually help us connect more deeply with others. We also give them permission to share their true emotions.
Some key things to remember with negative emotions are – –
- Don’t avoid or suppress them.
- Look for the information they are trying to tell us (i.e. Is there an action to take?).
- Do not get stuck there.
- Avoid unnecessary negativity, such as replaying a past situation that gets us upset without any benefit to us, or worrying about things outside our control.
Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is founder and owner of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures.