( Diane Dahli has been a faithful and loyal reader of DigiDame for many years. Thank you Diane. Diane is also a blogger. She wrote a post about mood swings that I wanted to share with you. It’s fascinating. I feel it’s very relevant for people our age.)
On some days, even perfect ones like today, when everything is fine in my world, I’ve been known to suddenly experience what I can only describe as a bad mood. I don’t obsess about it, or even question it. A wave of sadness appears out of nowhere, and usually, if I practice gratitude for a few minutes, it melts away. Even anger, (which momentarily appears as irritation with small things that can go wrong in life), doesn’t linger for long, and can be dispersed with a few philosophical thoughts.
Dealing with my emotions has become part of my everyday existence, and I accept this as proof that I am vitally alive and responsive to life’s situations.
We all have the capacity to experience a bad mood, or to be more specific, the full range of emotions—happiness, sadness, joy, anger, envy, resentment—it’s what makes us human. Most people go through life on an emotional even keel, feeling basically happy most days, and reserving the deeper emotions for specific situations. But some people are more expressive, and feel things more keenly. It doesn’t mean they are unbalanced, or disturbed or deficient in any way. It’s just that their feelings seem to be more accessible, and closer to the surface.
Who knew that a bad mood can be good for us?
In fact, psychologists claim that all emotions, even negative ones, such as fear, anger, shame or disgust, are useful to us. They stem from ancient, primordial instincts, which help us recognize, and avoid dangerous situations.
Mild, temporary bad moods help us cope with everyday challenges and alert us to issues in our lives that need to be addressed.
Having always felt that bad moods are undesirable, I was surprised to learn that, according to some studies, the following benefits, among others, can occur as a result of experiencing a bad mood:
better memory: A bad mood has been known to focus the memory, so that details are sharper, particularly in the case of eyewitness accounts. By being less distracted during an event, evidently, people who are in a bad mood can weed out irrelevant information and recall these details more accurately.
more motivation: It’s no surprise to me that people who are ‘driven’, and possibly angry, try harder and persevere more when performing a task. This drive may come from a need to prove something—a desire a more happy, complacent person may not have.
better communication has been indicated by subjects who are in a bad mood.
more accurate judgments were made by subjects in a bad mood, who relied less on stereotypes and rumors.
Seeing someone in a bad mood makes people uncomfortable
So if feeling bad is not bad for us, and may even be beneficial, why is our society so consumed with the need to be happy at all times? Why does seeing someone in a bad mood—expressing sadness, anger or distress—become a cause for concern?
In our culture, unhappiness is looked upon as an illness. People who are ’emotional’ are considered sick in some way, and in need of therapy. Teenagers, particularly, in their period of emotional development, are understandably unstable, and not necessarily in need of ‘help’. Older people, experiencing natural feelings of loss or sadness are sometimes too hastily considered risks for dementia or worse.
I agree with the current studies that we have emotions for a reason, that they may be ultimately beneficial and necessary to our existence. I would add that it is important to acknowledge them, and to allow ourselves to experience them. Denying our feelings has become an outcome of the current “cult of happiness” in our culture. It is not natural, and it is not healthy.
I think that the issue here is not if and how we experience our emotions, but how we manage them.
Wellness coach and author Elizabeth Scott, discusses this in her February 12, 2018 article “How Negative Emotions Affect Us and How to Embrace Them”:
“The idea of “managing” negative emotions is a complex one. It doesn’t mean avoiding feeling them—avoidance coping is actually a form of coping that attempts to do this, and it can often backfire. It also doesn’t mean letting these negative emotions wreak havoc on your life, your relationships, and your stress levels. Unmanaged anger, for example, can compel us to destroy relationships if we allow it to.
…Managing negative emotions also means not allowing them to overrun us; we can keep them under control without denying that we are feeling them.”
There are many different ways to manage our emotions. As we grow up and grow older, we discover them, usually without professional help.