According to recent articles published in such reputable journals as Psychology & Health, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, and Emotion:
- Feeling down makes us more likely to choose the safe bet.
- Low moods tip us toward thinking more analytically.
- Negative emotion (triggered by a loss, for example) makes us back away, protecting us from worse to come.
- Bad moods lead us away from repeating the same stupid behaviors.
- People who see meaning and value in bad or sad moods tend to suffer less from them.
I, myself, am a little tired not just of others’ expectations that everything should feel good all the time, I’m tired of my own desire for something so unrealistic and unnatural! We are a species on a planet. Every kind of experience, good, bad, and ugly is par for the course.
As human-animals, or homo sapiens, the animal part of our brain is going to respond naturally to its environment according to the biological code of our DNA. We are going to get angry, sad, frustrated, terrified, or just plain miserable so that we can protect ourselves. And those negative feelings, as well as the behaviors they cause, may last awhile.
Similarly, the more uniquely human part of our brain has powerful capacities too. It can learn to focus on practicing in the skills of well-being. Nonverbal, sensory tools in particular help us shift our internal state. With practice over time of the most effective ways to ground, breathe, meditate or nurture compassion, we grow neural pathways that allow us to more easily shift out of long states of misery into periods of time when we feel okay. We may not be swinging from the chandeliers soon after a heartbreak or trauma, but the neuroplasticity of our brain proves that we can train ourselves to bounce back from bad moods, even if we just start by embracing them.
One client put it perfectly the other day in our session together as he strengthened his neural pathways for awareness of what is. He said, “I don’t feel excessively good. I don’t feel excessively bad. You know what?” he asked as he realized something important: “It feels good to not feel bad.”