Many of us view happiness as the absence of negative emotions; it's the idea that you've reached a point in your life where you simply don't have much to feel unhappy about. Aside from being rooted in the dangerous mentality of perfectionism, this idea is further challenged by an eye-opening new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
The researchers, led by assistant psychology professor Brett Ford, found that "when people accept (versus judge) their mental experiences, those experiences run their natural—and relatively short-lived—course, rather than being exacerbated," explain the study authors. In other words, accepting your negative emotions instead of judging them will improve your psychological health in the long run.
Ford and team recruited roughly a thousand study participants across socioeconomic, gender, and racial divides to test the idea that acceptance of negativity lends itself to happiness. The subjects filled out questionnaires regarding their life satisfaction, anxiety, mindfulness, depressive tendencies, and the number of stressful events they've experienced in their lives. Regardless of differences in background, those who were able to accept life's difficulties were psychologically happier and healthier.
"For many, accepting our negative emotions appears counterproductive, especially because it gets in the way of what motivates us," writes The Cut of the new findings. But "our negative emotions can act as catalysts and adrenaline boosts—nervousness in the face of a closing deadline, for instance, might help push you to finish your task on time." Instead of chastising yourself for experiencing negative emotions or, worse, viewing them as a sign of weakness, you can instead use them productively or as a motivating force.
Have you found this to be true in your own life? Share your thoughts on the new study below.