The Positives of Mixed Emotions
Have you ever felt happy and sad at the same time. For example, maybe you just got a promotion and are feeling really excited, yet you are also sorry to be leaving your current department. It may be helpful to know that this ambiguity in emotions is not only normal, but can also produce a positive outcome.
Researchers have long linked negative emotions to increased risk for illness and positive emotions to health and longevity. Now, new research has found that mixed emotions are also beneficial. One study reports that the greater the frequency of people’s mixed emotional experiences over time, the slower their age-related health decline. And another study found that patients who experienced concurrent happiness and sadness in a psychotherapy session had the greatest boost in mental wellness at the next session – more so than those who felt only good or bad.
Here’s the important finding from this research. Balance – remembering positive things during challenging times – may be key to good mental health, even when no immediate benefit is apparent.
One author of these studies, Hal. E. Hershfield, explains this finding. “When we face difficult events in our lives, we can choose to suppress negative emotions and ignore them, express them or take the good with the bad.” It is important to note that letting in the good is not the same as plugging your ears and pretending everything is fine.
Emotional ambiguity can be difficult in the moment, but embracing it over times reaps rewards. Negative experiences are inevitable. It is how you cope with these experiences that determines the difference between an upward spiral and a downward one. When bad things happen, you can approach them with hope or despair. Reaching for the positive aspects in your life even in the face of adversity promotes hope and healing.
Source: Psychology Today, September/October 2012, p. 44