Feeling bad can make you feel worse

The study showed that if you are constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up and lead to more mental stress.
The study showed that if you are constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up and lead to more mental stress.PHOTO ISTOCKPHOTO

A study has found that people who feel bad about feeling bad - that is, people who get sad about their own negativities and judge themselves harshly for having them - wind up with even more mental stress than people who learn to accept their emotions and thoughts.

The study was conducted at the University of California at Berkeley (UC-Berkeley) and funded by the National Institute on Ageing in the United States.

It was done by University of Toronto assistant professor of psychology Brett Ford, UC-Berkeley associate psychology professor Iris Mauss, UC-Berkeley psychology professor Oliver John and graduate student Phoebe Lam of Northwestern University. The study was published in the Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology.

It looked at more than 1,300 adults to test the connection between the acceptance of their emotions and psychological health.

Prof Ford said: "It turns out that how we approach our own negative emotional reactions is really important for our overall well- being. People who accept these emotions without judging or trying to change them are able to cope with stress more successfully."

How was the research done?

First, more than 1,000 people filled out surveys with questions such as how they react to statements like "I tell myself I shouldn't be feeling the way that I'm feeling."

More than 150 participants were asked to give a three-minute videotaped speech - with only two minutes to prepare - as part of a mock job application and rate their own performance. Those who thought they did poorly were more stressed.

Prof Mauss was quoted by the UC-Berkeley release as saying: "Maybe if you have an accepting attitude towards negative emotions, you're not giving them as much attention.

"And perhaps, if you are constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up."

The research can help people who keep judging themselves understand that there is an emotional cost to doing so.

So stop feeling so bad about feeling bad, or you will just feel worse.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Feeling bad can make you feel worse'. Print Edition | Subscribe