Embracing Negative Emotions Could Boost Psychological Well-being

Posted on August 17, 2017

Our reaction when confronted with a negative emotion like sadness or disappointment is to try to escape. However, a recent study has found that acknowledging these emotions, instead of trying to get away, will likely benefit long-term mental health.

The study was led by Brett Ford, an assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto. Results showed a higher chance of getting symptoms of mood disorders for individuals who tried to fight against negative emotions.

Findings from previous research has suggested that the factor of acceptance has been linked with better psychological well-being. Examples of acceptance is accepting the good and bad traits that make us who we are. Prof. Ford and colleagues aimed to discover how accepting negative emotions impacts psychological health.

The study consisted of three experiments with 1003, 156 and 222 participants for the first, second and third experiment respectively.

The first experiment asked participants to rate the degree to which they agree with a list of statements. An example of the statement is “I tell myself I shouldn’t be feeling the way that I’m feeling.” Lower agreement with these statements showed that the person was better able to accept negative emotions. These participants had better levels of psychological well-being.

The second experiment required participants to prepared and record a short speech. Participants were told the recorded speech would be shown to judges. Participants reported how they felt after the recording. The researchers found that participants who were trying not to feel negative emotions experienced distress more than those who embraced the negative feelings.

The third experiment asked participants to keep a journal for two weeks, recording any bad experiences and their emotional responses to them. A psychological assessment was conducted six months later. The researchers found a higher likelihood of symptoms of mood disorders in participants who were trying to avoid any negative emotions, compared to participants who accepted them. Senior study author Iris Mauss explains that people who accept their negative emotions have better psychological health because they experience fewer negative emotions.

In light of these findings, the researchers proposed that it is better to just embrace and accept negative emotions than avoiding them. Prof. Ford suggests that acceptance of emotions leads to better stress-coping in individuals. If we are constantly aware of negative emotions, and judging them, we keep adding on to negativity, suggests Prof. Mauss.

Category(s):Self-Care / Self Compassion, Stress Management

Source material from Medical News Today

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