It’s OK to feel bad sometimes… No, it’s actually good to feel bad sometimes, and today I’m writing and explaining that.
“The word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – Carl Jung.
Sometimes when you find yourself in a deep and muddy hole and you feel bad, the best thing that you can do is calmly look up at the sky. It might be blue, it might be grey, but that simple act of looking somewhere else will remind you that your life is not necessarily all about the “here and now,” no matter how bad the “here and now” is or seems at that moment.
We all have bad times in life when we feel bad and like we are in a hole of some kind. Sometimes we fight to get out, but this often makes the walls of the hole ever more slippery. Sometimes we sit down and stare at the walls, blankly resigned to our fate. Sometimes we shout and scream about how unfair everything is. However, as we understand that life is filled with these black and white moments, sometimes we simply accept that we are in a hole and wait, patiently looking up at the sky…
We all have different things that we hold on to when times are tough. Some of us find our respite in sport or physical activity, some of us escape into our work, and some of us like to take a walk in the fresh air. This doesn’t solve what is causing our unpleasant moment, but it often gives us the strength to deal with whatever we need to.
When you start fighting against and resenting your bad moment, you inevitably make it even harder to bear. If you take action, if you seek to work your way through it, with occasional looks up at the sky (metaphorically and literally) to give you strength, you may be surprised at how much easier it is to deal with.
In a world of perfect Instagram photos and inspirational quotes on social media, it is easy to imagine that you are the only one going through a tough time. It can feel lonely and a bit sad at times. Putting on a “happy face” on social media is many people’s way of coping with what they perceive as inadequacies in their lives, but it is far from the truth. If you are having a tough time, you can start by telling someone about it – which can bring a little bit of sunlight into the hole, and a burden shared can be a burden halved.
Although most of us now live in a society where it’s all about staying strong and rarely reflecting upon negatives, sometimes a calculated approach to exploring bad feelings can be even more powerful.
Here are some reasons why it’s ok (or even good) to feel bad sometimes.
When You Feel Bad, It Brings Clarity:
Our emotions fluctuate. They come and go. They are difficult to describe. They can be even more difficult to understand. Often, most of us just know that certain things feel good or bad without actually understanding them.
Understanding the reasons behind our emotions can help. Confidence is one major reason for many people feeling unfulfilled in life. Only by understanding our emotions – good and bad – we can determine with confidence what is actually going to be satisfying long term.
Successful people understand that exploring bad feelings – although sometimes confusing and even painful – leads to understanding. It gives reason and allows you to build plans to put things right. A 2011 study by Bledow and colleagues found that bad moods can be motivating when they’re followed by good moods; and also that negative events, such as crises, conflicts, and errors, are integral and unavoidable aspects of human action in life.
Rather than just living purely at the mercy of your emotions, it gives you the chance to build some clarity about how and who you are, and develop understanding of yourself.
When You Feel Bad, It Brings Realism:
In this increasingly connected and fast paced world we live in today, expectations have never been higher.
It’s almost as if with our reliance on technology to do so much, we’re almost expected to be like computers ourselves.
And that’s perhaps where emotional reflection gets most interesting. Successful people understand that by exploring bad feelings when necessary, they become reminded of how emotional and irrational human beings actually are at times. It reinforces that despite technology being a great thing, we will often do things based on feelings rather than thinking logically.
It’s what makes us so amazing and causes us to explore, be artistic and continuously look for new ways to express ourselves. Keeping us grounded and keeping us real. I’m going to write more on this later on too as many people expect me to have a “whoopee-doo” attitude all the time because of my profession.
When You Feel Bad, It Leads To Self-discovery:
Our emotions can determine what we do and ultimately may determine who we become. Yet what is so unique about each of us is that these reasons are different for everybody.
Finding out the trigger points for our emotions and how to use and avoid them is an important aspect of leading a happy and fulfilled life.
Exploring our bad feelings can lead to vital lessons in self-discovery and personal development. Whether it is feeling depressed due to lack of progress, feeling jealous because other people are “moving on” or getting insecure around particular people, it allows us to discover the most important thing in life itself: Us. Ourselves.
By investing the time in reflection – even with the negatives – you can get to know yourself better and improve who you are.
“When you feel sad, it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Everyone has those days when you doubt yourself, and when you feel like everything you do sucks, but then there’s those days when you feel like Superman. It’s just the balance of the world. I just write to feel better.” – Mac Miller.
Bad Moods Won’t Do You Harm If You Embrace Them!
In a study published in 2016, researchers Luong and colleagues, demonstrated that people’s frequency of bad moods were linked to negative outcomes with their mental and physical health, but that the impact upon health varied according to the attitude they had about the negative emotion. Those who were negative about the bad mood tended to pay a price of poorer mental and physical health. Those who embraced the bad mood and held a more progressive, positive attitude toward it found the links to poor health were virtually removed or absent altogether.
Additionally, a bad mood won’t negatively effect your mental performance. A 2016 study by Sophie Von Stumm showed that there is no evidence to suggest a bad mood will make you perform poorly in a test or exam. In fact, a 2005 piece of research by Forgas and colleagues suggests that you will be less susceptible to misinformation when you are in a bad mood; you become a better critical thinker and even further research by Forgas and East (2008) suggests you are less gullible when you are in a bad mood.
When You Feel Bad, It May Make You Empathetic:
Those suffering from depression are often characterised as being disengaged or disconnected, yet research in 2005 by Harkness and colleagues entitled Enhanced accuracy of mental state decoding in dysphoric college students, featured in Cognition and Emotion journal found that mildly depressed individuals were better able to detect other people’s emotions. So, it’s okay to have a bad moment. It happens. A lot. Just accept it for what it is, look up at the sky every now and again, and you’ll find a way through it.
We all feel down sometimes. Sometimes exploring bad feelings can actually be just as important in leading a satisfying and productive life as simply trying to stay positive and getting on with it. And who knows, it might even lead to answers that could be invaluable.
Must We Be “Whoppee-Doo” All The Time?
Am I Allowed To Feel Bad?
One thing I have struggled to come to terms with over the years, is that as a trainer, author and therapist, whose main purpose in those roles has been to help others feel happier or get better, is that many people expect you to be “Mr Whoopee-doo” all the time.
What do I mean by that?
Incredibly happy, positive, without flaws, without issues, who walks though life hugging, high-fiving and chest bumping everyone encountered. The way everyone is expected to be at the end of a Tony Robbins seminar, for example, when loud music is playing and things get evangelical.
I am not suggesting that these are bad things, or bad traits or that Tony Robbins seminars are not wonderful (I know many people who love the fact that dancing and singing their way out of the event location and do not consider it to be engineered euphoria at all).
I think that there is a case for some sobriety when it comes to well-being though. Many personal development programmes offer up a sort of ‘magical thinking’ process, and suggest that we need to all have a highly enthusiastic positive thinking mindset to fully derive satisfaction and enjoyment from life. The idea that everything can have a positive spin applied to it to make it ok!
Yet a recent study suggests that perhaps, for some people, not only is positive thinking challenging but it could be harmful.
In a study by Moser et al (2014) Neural Markers of positive reappraisal and their associations with trait reappraisal and worry, participants were asked to attempt to think positively when being exposed to troubling images such as people being held at knife-point. The lead author Jason Moser states;
“The worriers actually showed a paradoxical backfiring effect in their brains when asked to decrease their negative emotions.
This suggests they have a really hard time putting a positive spin on difficult situations and actually make their negative emotions worse even when they are asked to think positively.”
“You can’t just tell your friend to think positively or to not worry — that’s probably not going to help them.
So you need to take another tack and perhaps ask them to think about the problem in a different way, to use different strategies.”
This is research that pleases me because I am not Mr Whoopee-Doo all the time. I think people that walk through life with a seemingly botox fixed grin on their faces every waking second potentially require therapy more than the rest of us. I have days whereby I find life challenging, I get angry, I get sad, I often feel things that I intelligently realise I ought not be thinking (e.g. worry, embarrassment) but I have found that only ever trying to shout over them with something more positive can be challenging and frustrating.
For me, looking at at approaches to acceptance such ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) as well as cognitive restructuring methods used in cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy are really useful – they are sober, realistic and they also have evidence to support their use rather than just someone’s euphoria selling the virtues of them. They have value in the cold light of day away from the crowds.
This is not only true for me personally, but in my therapy rooms I have found that my clients derive more benefit when they have useable, realistic coping skills and strategies and are not just expected to thinking positively all of the time by putting a positive spin on things.
What’s more, those who struggle to put a positive spin on things as prescribed by many on the personal development field, may end up thinking that because they are not living life as Mr Whoopee-Doo, then there is clearly more wrong with them that they originally thought…
Therefore, be realistic with your expectations for yourself. Be balanced. Accept how you feel. It’s ok to be sober at times. Learn how to restructure your thoughts in a healthy fashion. Understand that part of the human condition is such that we can’t realistically just think positively 100% of the time.
Marcellus Emants once stated; “Only a fool can be happy.” He explained that you cannot be content and experience pleasure at the same time, but many other authors use a similar line that only a fool can be happy. That might be a bit harsh, but our bad moods give us meaning.
An American survey published in 2013, led by Roy Baumeister, found that typically the people who rated their lives as more meaningful were also those people who reported experiencing more stress, anxiety and worry.
I hope I’ve shown that it is OK, and sometimes even good to feel bad from time to time; science says so. Don’t go being too hard on yourself and make things worse if and when you feel bad or have a bad mood. Think of it as enriching you, and work your way out of it intelligently.
Have some of themes here resonated with you? Then have a read of these pages:
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