Embracing sadness can lead to happiness
Deeply embedded in the American culture is the notion that the feeling happy is the same as fulfillment, but researchers and popular culture are disproving that theory.
Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology on “Emodiversity” suggests that people who experience both high levels of positive emotion and high levels of negative emotion have the best overall feelings of well-being. Positive emotion includes experiences that generate feelings of alertness, contentment, joy, and amusement. Negative emotions include feelings of guilt, anger, contempt, and shame.
“Everyone on this earth has good days and bad days. In fact, most people experience an entire range of emotions every day. All of our emotions are important parts of our personality. They are there for a reason, each has a purpose. For example, fear exists to keep us safe and happiness keeps us interested in life,” says Dr. Amy Blais, a pediatrician at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
Both children and adults can benefit from experiencing a full spectrum of emotions. Parents and grandparents can allow kids to feel disappointment and allow kids to make mistakes so they can learn from them.
A current and wildly popular movie illustrates this.
Pixar’s, “Inside Out,” focuses on the five emotions (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, Disgust) and their interplay in 11-year-old Riley’s head. Joy, a positive pixie-like character who tries to shield Riley from all other emotions, finally realizes that happiness and fulfillment can be a by-product of other emotions, such as sadness. When all of the emotions are fully expressed, Riley is able to experience true joy and connection with her family.
Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and founder of AhaParenting.com shared in a recent article that parents shouldn’t overprotect their kids from experiencing emotions that might be sad or negative.
“There are a lot of feelings that don’t feel good to us, but if our goal is to make our child happy by stopping them from feeling those feelings, by preventing suffering…we’re giving our child the message that there’s something wrong with half of the feelings that make us human.”
Blais explains that children should be encouraged to embrace every emotion.
“It is extremely important to talk about emotions with children as they are developing into young adults. It is essential to acknowledge that the emotions that a child is feeling are normal, that everyone experiences them – especially the negative emotions of anger, fear, and sadness. It is equally important to help your child learn how to manage their emotions in constructive ways.”
In order to find personal happiness, adults can make a focused effort to experience the full range of human emotion, and to allow sadness to guide the way toward true happiness.
“The movie ‘Inside Out’ does a great job of opening up potential conversation about emotions and showing children and young adults that emotions – even the negative ones – are normal …and so are they,” Blais adds.
About the Author
Jen Frey, health enews contributor, manages the Transportation Department at Advocate Condell Medical Center. Jen has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her master’s degree in Recreation Administration from Aurora University. Jen’s favorite things include traveling with her children, exercising and finding a great bargain.