We often place emotions on either side of a scale, putting the positive emotions (happy, optimistic, loving, etc.) and the negative emotions (anger, sadness, stress) on opposite sides.
But what happens if these emotions don’t always fit neatly on one side of the scale?
Below, Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno details the emotions that most of us deem ‘negative’ and how they are all a part of our overall good mental health.
When we think of anger, we often associate it as being a very negative emotion. After all, it does have a strong impact on the person who is angry (and often on others, if they’re on the receiving end).
If we look at what happens to us physically, you can see why it’s often seen as a negative emotion that should be restrained: our heart rate goes up, our body is flooded with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, our body temperature rises, and our skin perspires (i.e., we sweat!). Why would you want to put yourself through that if you could help it?
Well, it turns out that anger in small doses can actually be good for you. For starters, it can act as a great motivator for change. Whether that’s changing a habit, changing a job, or changing the way you perceive things, anger can be a driver that can transform areas of your life.
Research has indicated that feeling angry can increase optimism, creativity, and effective performance. It also shows that expressing anger can lead to more successful negotiations, in life or on the job. While it’s not advised to spend your life in an angry state, this can act as a reminder that emotions we perceive to be negative, like anger, aren’t always bad.
Stress is one of those emotions that everyone can really relate to – as humans, it’s very natural to feel stress from time to time. It’s often viewed as an exclusively negative emotion, especially since it can lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, skin conditions, asthma, anxiety, and the list goes on.
However, it’s important to know that a little bit of stress can be good for you! In fact, there are several positive benefits of stress. To start with, stress can help increase alertness and performance. If we consider those scenarios where we feel a bit of stress, such as a looming deadline at work, we can consider how it might affect us in a good way. It might drive you to stop procrastinating, be more productive, focus, and finish the task.
Stress can also make you more motivated to succeed, be more resilient, and increase creativity. So, the next time you’re feeling stressed, remember that it might be the thing that your body and mind needs in that moment. Just be sure not to spend your time consistently feeling stressed, as long-term stress definitely isn’t good for you.
Sadness is another one of those emotions we either avoid, or we try to get rid of as quick as possible. ‘Cheer up’, ‘look on the bright side’, and ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ are all sayings that encourage us to move on from that emotion – in short, to simply stop being sad.
However, as humans, there really is a reason that we feel these emotions, and it’s important to really feel them. Sadness is one of them. In fact, sadness is not all doom and gloom – it actually has a lot of positive benefits on a person.
For starters, sadness can help you to better understand a situation, accept it, and ultimately move on from it. It can also help enhance empathy, compassion, and your ability to connect with other people. So, the next time you feel sad, don’t spend your time trying desperately to get out of it. Instead, know that it’s okay to feel sad from time to time, and there are times when you will benefit from it!
Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world-class wellbeing technology that helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist while being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.
If you liked this article, you might like our feature about the power of saying 'No' with author Sarah Knight.
Louise Mertens is an illustrator & graphic designer from Antwerp, Belgium, with a sharp eye for making editorial collage work. In her work Louise likes to bring a touch of mystery to fashion editorial photography; it’s always as if her characters are hiding something. By browsing through fashion magazines looking for clean and sharp images or by directly collaborating with a photographer Louise finds her source material, later adding an abstract layer to the images in Photoshop.