Feel Good

When Being Happy Means Sometimes Feeling Crappy

A recent study shows that the journey to happiness might just start with other emotions of anger, hostility, or even contempt. Most studies look to things like a regular fitness routine, smiling more, and being appreciative as being the keys to happiness. But this one is different and actually suggests that embracing negative feelings can be an effective method of feeling happier overall.

This report was published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, and the researchers gathered data from over 2300 surveys completed by college-age students in eight countries including the U.S., Brazil and China. The questions asked about about what emotions they felt in real life, which emotions they wanted to feel more of, and were measured for symptoms of depression and overall health and well-being.

Of course the participants said that they wish they experienced more emotions like love, empathy, and generally more pleasant feelings. But others reported wanting to feel fewer pleasant emotions or more unpleasant emotions. All together, participants who had the highest rates of life satisfaction were the ones feeling emotions that were “right” to them, even if they were not happy ones.

Main author Maya Tamir says that, “If we are able to accept and even welcome the emotions that we have, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, we are likely to be happier and more satisfied.” For example, ″a minority group member who seeks justice because people in the majority mistreat him, feeling anger may just be the right emotion,” the study authors wrote.

It is unrealistic to think that we can have happy, joyful emotions all of the time. Being able to accept and process the raw, sometimes unpleasant emotions we experience might just be the key to leading an overall happy life. So the next time you are looking for a boost in your happiness, try playing the song that makes you cry and gives you a dose of reality before dopamine.