We don’t have to be the first to tell you that life can be frustrating/stressful/painful/annoying/infuriating/sad at times. While some of us may come across these bad days more than others, we all experience them in some way, shape or form. And they’re downright brutal.
But anyone who’s lived through the tough times can attest to their overall importance to our health — mental, physical and emotional — for a few reasons: 1. They show us what we’re capable of; 2. They remind us of what we have ahead of us; and 3. They make us strong AF.
Sure, sounds good and all but when you hit your lowest point, then what? Embrace the low. The good. The bad. The u-g-l-y. All of it.
Get this: A 2017 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who resist their negative emotions are more likely to experience similar negative moods in the following months as opposed to people who fully accept their emotions.
For the first experiment, researchers had 1,003 participants complete a survey where they were asked to identify how much they agreed with certain statements, including “I tell myself I shouldn’t be feeling the way that I’m feeling.” As a result, participants who didn’t agree with these statements showed a greater acceptance of their emotions and a higher level of psychological well-being.
In the second experiment, 156 participants gave a 3-minute speech as part of a fake job application. They were given two minutes to prepare and informed that the speeches would be critiqued by a panel of judges. Participants who were negative about the assignment were more likely to experience stress, compared to the participants who embraced it.
In the third and final experiment, 222 participants were asked to record their bad experiences in a journal for two full weeks. Six months later, the participants followed up with the researchers about their emotional responses. “We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” says senior study author Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, participants who mentioned avoiding negative feelings about a bad experience were more likely to show symptoms of mood disorders, including anxiety and depression.
When looking for the why, the researchers came up with this: “Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention,” speculates Professor Mauss. “And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”
Think about it in simple terms: Negative + Emotion = Neutral. If you meet a negative experience with a negative reaction, then you’ll find yourself deeper and deeper in the negative.
Hear us out: We know how hard life can be. We’re living it too. But if we’ve learned anything, it’s that science (and ya know, the people that love us) encourages us to lean into our emotions on our best and worst days. And who knows, you might just discover something even greater about yourself in the process.