People typically strive to be happy and healthy, and the idea that they must focus on only positive feelings seems to be generally understood as the best way to achieve that. But, what if they’re wrong? Could the avoidance of negative feelings actually be detrimental to their goal of happiness? It seems silly to think that feigning contentment and ignoring less-favorable feelings would offer a real chance for mental stability, but that is how a lot of people operate, weirdly enough. According to this interesting study conducted by psychologist Jordi Quoidbach and colleagues, the recipe for a well-rounded individual requires a little bit of everything on the emotional spectrum. So stop calling me crazy when I go from livid to loving in the course of a few hours, I’m just a very well-adjusted person riding the waves of the emotion ocean to it’s fullest capacity!
Studies conducted in both France and Belgium, totaling over 37,000 responders, found that “emodiversity” plays a bigger role in our mental and physical health than many of us are aware of. Emodiversity is the term used to describe an individual’s acknowledgement of all 18 of the feelings described in the study’s emotional scale. There are 9 negative feelings on one end, and 9 positive feelings on the other, but it is the average of them all that makes up a person’s emodiversity. Someone who only experiences emotions on one side, regardless of whether it is the positive or negative side, has a low emodiversity score, whereas those who regularly experience the full spectrum have the highest scores. So basically, someone who is always cheerful and nice isn’t doing much better than someone who is always down in the dumps about everything.
Of course, this research doesn’t prove that emodiversity is the reason that a person is healthy, only that there are correlations between the two. Perhaps having a limited range of feelings is merely an effect of emotional disorders, such as depression. If a person doesn’t experience certain feelings, this research certainly can’t make them do so, nor can people will themselves to feel things that they don’t. Essentially, the findings are just proving something that seems rather obvious already; you can’t have the good without the bad, and variety of both is the key to keep your engine moving. The ability to feel multiple emotions on either end of the spectrum is more beneficial than only feeling one. If feelings of sadness are accompanied with other negative emotions, such as anger, people are less likely to withdraw and get stuck in a depressive state. The momentum of emotions helps us to develop the resilience needed to overcome negative feelings. We have to come out on the other side in order to prove to ourselves that we can (i.e. we have to feel all the crappy feelings to appreciate the good ones!)
Life is a roller coaster, and those who can weather the storm without getting stuck on the ups and downs will fare the best. They also tend to be more helpful to others, because getting advice from someone who has never dealt with certain difficult emotions is usually terrible. People who experience a wide range of feelings are able to understand and empathize with others, and offer genuine input. So next time you want to strangle life with your bare hands, just remember that, eventually, something else will happen that will make you want to give it a big ol’ bear hug.