It has become somewhat of a psychological trend in the recent years to always be on the bright side. “Think positively,” they often say, “and you will see how your mood can shape the reality.” While probably an exaggeration, like any new fad is, the benefits of not letting minor things pull you down are obvious.
However, it’s not all black and white. It turns out being sad can bring some health benefits, too. In fact, several psychological studies have been published in recent that prove the positive effect of being sad on one’s health. At that, it is worth mentioning that it’s about being sad as an emotional state, which doesn’t even come close to debilitating psychological conditions such as depression.
A surge in motivation
In a study called “The affective shift model of work engagement,” it has been found out that a temporary plunge into a sad mood can have positive impact on productivity. It is worth mentioning that results were only valid for mood shifts going from bad to good. The authors went further to develop what they called an affective shift model of work engagement, where such engagement emerged from negative-to-positive dynamics. More specifically, software developers that participated in the experiment turned out to be more productive if their bad mood in the morning shifted to a good one in the afternoon. Using this pattern, you can predict your own productivity judging from the mood shifts and probably even influence it.
In a study called “When sad is better than happy: Negative affect can improve the quality and effectiveness of persuasive messages and social influence strategies” released in 2017, the researcher Joseph P. Forgas found that participants with artificially provoked bad moods produced more persuasive arguments to support statements. More specifically, after being exposed to some heavily emotional video material, subjects had to persuade an imaginary reader to change their opinion on controversial topics. Somehow, the feeling of sadness influenced the way the participants built their narrative. Being an interesting psychological fact in itself, this shift in persuasiveness can be used to produce better argumentative papers, whatever the purpose.
A better ability to express feelings and thoughts
It is often said that a sad artist is better than a happy one. Amazingly, there is a psychological basis for it. When feeling happy, you may be overwhelmed with emotions. While feeling sad, you are much more adapted to putting your thoughts on paper. In some cases, the ability to write it all out is actually a way out of the state of sadness you’re in. Paired with the newly acquired argumentative skills, it’s a sure win for producing more persuasive and beautifully written pieces without even making your best.
In another study, Mr. Forgas and his colleagues found that sadness may actually improve short-term memory and judgement. In one of their experiments, they noticed that on rainy days that provoked the feeling of sadness, people could better remember what they have seen in a store they visited. In another experiment, Forgas and the team asked participants to recall happy or sad things in their past to set the right mood. They were then showed photographs and asked questions containing misleading information. The “sad” part of participants was less prone to letting misleading information cloud their recollection of what was shown in the pictures.
A boost in skepticism
In yet another study, “On being happy and gullible: Mood effects on skepticism and the detection of deception”, Forgas went on to discover yet another benefit – sadness helped people detect lies by boosting their skeptical side. In the related experiment, participants had to detect whether people were telling the truth or lies about committing a theft. Sadness helped to fulfill the task better, while happiness provoked trustiness and carelessness.
And if you go as far as crying, you stand to get some benefit too. Shedding the tears of sadness will help you get rid of toxins, kill bacteria, improve vision and (obviously) relieve stress.
All things considered, it seems that the key to mastering your emotions is not suppressing, but rather embracing them all. If even at your lowest point you stand to get health and mental benefit, then maybe it’s worth trying?