Be real with what you feel
New research suggests that a key to happiness may include embracing more negative emotions. Traditionally, psychologists have held that in order to increase happiness, it is important to increase positive emotions and decrease the negative. In the new study “The Secret to Happiness: Feeling Good or Feeling Right?,” researchers suggest that people are happier when the emotions they experience align with the emotions they desire, even if those are unpleasant, such as anger or contempt.
“People are happier if they feel what they want to feel or if they want what they feel,” says Maya Tamir, Ph.D., lead researcher on the study and psychology professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “If people want to feel unpleasant emotions, they are happier if they feel them, at least to some extent. If we feel angry, but consider these the right feelings to have—we’re probably better off than if our feelings don’t match what we want them to be.”
Embrace your emotions
Maya explains that some negative emotions can be helpful and even beneficial when those emotions are aligned with our desires. For instance, if you are feeling angry about a great injustice, your desires are probably related to your core values. The anger you feel may spur you into action, which can provide meaning in your life as you work to correct the injustice. Embracing your anger may motivate you to pursue a fitness goal if you are out of shape or strive for a promotion at work if you are not happy with your current financial situation.
“Happiness is not only about the emotions you have, but also about the emotions you want to have,” Maya explains. “You are happier when these two match than when they mismatch, regardless of whether that means feeling more or less pleasant overall.”
The bottom line is that sweeping your negative emotions under the rug will not help you achieve happiness, so just don’t do it.