People who allow themselves to feel negative emotions are happier and less depressed, new research finds.
Feeling emotions like anger and hatred at appropriate times is linked to greater satisfaction with life.
It is the first study of its kind to find this link between happiness and feeling negative emotions.
It makes sense given that positive emotions do not always have ‘good’ outcomes and negative emotions do not necessarily have ‘bad’ outcomes.
For example, love could make a person stay with an abusive partner.
Anger could help that person leave the abusive relationship.
Dr Maya Tamir, the study’s first author, said:
“Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain.
Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have.
All emotions can be positive in some contexts and negative in others, regardless of whether they are pleasant or unpleasant.”
In general, people naturally wanted to experience more positive emotions and fewer negative emotions.
Around one-in-ten people, though, said they experienced too much love and empathy.
Another one-in-ten said they wanted to feel more unpleasant emotions like hatred or anger.
Dr Tamir said:
“People want to feel very good all the time in Western cultures, especially in the United States.
Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still think that they should feel even better, which might make them less happy overall.”
The results come from surveys of 2,324 students in the US, Brazil, China, Germany, Ghana, Israel, Poland and Singapore.
They were asked about the emotions they actually felt and those they wanted to feel.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Tamir et al., 2017).