Negative emotions? Not always

I read with interest a new study published in Emotion this month. It suggests that bad moods should not necessarily be seen as negative; if you see value, meaning and even satisfaction in your ‘bad’ moods, then you are likely to suffer less negative effects from such emotions.   In the study, the people who had negative attitudes toward bad moods tended to report more bad moods and worse emotional and physical health, both in the moment and longer term. In the people who had a more positive attitude toward bad moods, these links were reduced, or even absent. Luong and colleagues (2015) conclude that recognising the value and meaning of negative moods and emotions might help prevent more negative mood states from having a significant effect on our health.

I find this research interesting because in DBT, there is an emphasis on accepting all emotions, and recognising that they ebb and flow, intensify and diminish. It is recognised that pushing emotions away or blocking them can lead to self-destructive ways of coping and can actually make the emotions hang around more intensely. Finding meaning in emotions is part of the DBT approach of connecting in with spirituality or other beliefs, and can help people feel strength and comfort when they need it. It can help to accept that experiencing a range of emotions is what makes us human.

Cited article: Luong, G., Wrzus, C., Wagner, G., & Riediger, M. (2015). When Bad Moods May Not Be So Bad: Valuing Negative Affect Is Associated With Weakened Affect–Health Links. Emotion DOI:10.1037/emo0000132