Being sad from time to time is not normal, but it has many psychological benefits.
He Homo sapiens It is a species with many mood changes and despite the sadness and bad mood they have always been part of human lifeWe live in a time when these feelings are ignored or devalued.
In our society, some normal human emotions such as temporary sadness are often treated as if they were disorders. The manipulative power of advertising, marketing and the self-help industry crush us that what matters is to be happy.
However, bad mood remains an essential part of the different moods we experience normally. Despite the almost universal cult of happiness and unprecedented material wealth, neither happiness nor personal satisfaction have improved in Western societies for decades.
It's time to rethink the role of bad mood in our lives and recognize that it is something normal and it is even a useful and adaptive part of the human being, helping us to face many situations and daily challenges.
A brief history of sadness
In other times, short periods of sadness or bad mood (known as mild dysphoria) were always accepted as a normal part of everyday life. In fact, many of the great achievements of the human spirit have to do with the idea of evoking, rehearsing and even fostering negative feelings.
Greek tragedies served to educate the public when it comes to dealing with the inevitable misfortunes that are a normal part of human life and Shakespeare's tragedies are classics of literature because they deal with these issues. The works of great artists, such as Beethoven and Chopin in music or Chekhov and Ibsen in literature, also explore the landscapes of sadness, a subject that has long been considered instructive and valuable.
Ancient philosophers also believed that accepting bad mood It is essential to live a full life. Some hedonistic philosophers like Epicurus even recognized that living well consists in judging wisely, moderating, self-controlling and accepting the inevitable adversities.
Other philosophers such as the Stoics also stressed the importance of learning to anticipate and accept misfortunes, such as losses, sadness or injustices.
What is the point of sadness?
Psychologists who study how our feelings and behaviors evolve over time maintain that all our affective states (such as moods and emotions) have utility: let us know from other states to which we need to respond.
In fact, the fan of our emotions includes many more negative than positive. Negative emotions such as fear, anger, shame or disgust are useful because they help us recognize, avoid and overcome threatening or dangerous situations. So what is the point of sadness? Especially if we consider that it is the most common negative feeling and one of the most frequent problems that psychologists have to face.
A feeling of intense and lasting sadness, such as depression, is obviously a serious and debilitating disorder. However, mild and temporary negative moods may make sense for adaptation purposes, helping us cope with everyday challenges and difficult situations. These types of negative feelings are also a social signal that indicates disconnection, abandonment and search for protection. When we show sadness or bad mood, someone is more likely to worry about us and try to help us.
Some negative moods, such as melancholy or nostalgia (longing for the past), may even be pleasant and give us useful information to plan for the future and increase our motivation.
Sadness can also improve empathy, compassion, our emotional ties and moral and aesthetic sensibility. Not forgetting that sadness has long been a source of inspiration for artistic creativity.
Some of the most recent scientific experiments document the benefits of mild negative feelings, which often function as automatic and unconscious alarm signals, helping us to pay more attention and pay more attention to detail in difficult situations.
On the contrary, a positive mood (feeling happy) makes us think less detailed and pay less attention because situations seem safe and familiar.
The psychological benefits of sadness
There is increasing scientific evidence that negative moods, such as sadness, have psychological benefits. To prove it, the researchers previously influenced people's mood (with happy or sad movies, for example) and then measured changes in performance when performing different cognitive and behavioral tasks. Being sad or cranky has several benefits:
1) best memory: In one experiment, a bad mood (caused by bad weather) made people remember better the details of a store from which they had just left. Bad mood can also improve a witness's memory by reducing the effects of other distractions, such as irrelevant, false or misleading information.
2) best criteria: If it is not serious, bad mood also reduces some prejudices when forming an opinion. For example, judges who are a little sad judge more accurately and reliably than the rest, since they process the information more efficiently. We have realized that bad mood also reduced credulity and increased skepticism when assessing urban myths and rumors, even improving people's ability to detect a hoax. A little sad people are also less likely to rely on simplistic stereotypes.
3) motivation: Other experiments showed that when happy or sad participants were asked to carry out a difficult mental task, those who had a negative mood tried harder and were more persistent. They devoted more time to the exercise, tried to answer more questions and had a greater number of correct answers.
4) better comunication: Negative moods that make us pay more attention can also improve communication. We discover that when people are sad, they use persuasive arguments more effectively to convince others, being able to understand ambiguous phrases better and communicate better when speaking.
5) greater impartiality: Other experiments found that a bad mood made people pay more attention to social norms and expectations, treating others less selfishly and more fairly.
Countering the cult of happiness
If we exalt happiness and deny the virtues of sadness, we are proposing something unattainable and it may even be easier to fall into feelings of disappointment and lead to depression.
There is increasing consensus on the idea that being always in a good mood, despite having some advantages, is not desirable at a universal level.
Being sad or cranky It helps us focus better in the situation in which we find ourselves, being able to analyze and respond to more demanding situations.
These findings suggest that a relentless pursuit of happiness can often be counterproductive. For some time we need to be clear about the advantages and disadvantages of being in a good mood and in a bad mood.
This article has originally been published in The Conversation. You can read the original article here.
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