Why Bad Feelings Are Surprisingly Good For You

I think it’s a safe bet to say that happiness is the king of emotions. Everyone wants to talk about how to get it, ways to prolong it and the benefits associated with it. Not surprisingly, negative emotions are regarded with contempt; they’re to be avoided at all costs.
And generally speaking that’s true. No one purposefully goes out into the world hoping something will make them sad, angry or depressed. But bad feelings can be a valuable way to spur you to action. In fact, they can be a surprising source of personal growth.

It’s A Good Thing
I think the reason most people see bad feelings as something to avoid is because of the pain associated with them. Just imagine how awful you felt the last time you experienced deep sadness or anger. I know that’s not something you’d want to ever go through again.
But what really is pain? It’s a signal to you that something is wrong and you need to take care of it. If you have a sharp physical pain in your abdomen, you know that something in your body is wrong and you need to go to the hospital.

Without that pain your body, you would never realize that something desperately needs to be taken care of. I’ll even go as far as saying that pain is a good thing. Think of how many lives have been saved because someone went to the doctor for an unknown pain in their body.

It’s easy to see pain as something terrible. After all, it makes you feel bad and uncomfortable. But it is a necessary function of existence. Bad emotional feelings work in the exact same way.

When you feel sadness or anger, you should immediately realize that something is wrong and you need to take action. It’s a signal for you to pay attention to what’s going on around you because something isn’t working right. Hopefully it will spur you to change something like your behavior, situation, attitude or environment.

Recognize Your True Feelings

Negative emotions only become serious if you don’t take any action to resolve them. Think of someone who is in a massive depression, but doesn’t do anything to make it better. Inaction is the real cause of prolonged pain and suffering, not the emotions themselves.
There are a lot of reasons why someone might not take action on their negative feelings, but there are some things you can do to make sure you recognize those negative emotions and take action on them so they don’t become a bigger problem in the future.

1. Recognize and acknowledge what you’re feeling

You need to acknowledge when you’re feeling bad. Part of the reason people let their negative emotions get out of control is because they ignore them and hope they just go away. Of course all this does is hide the underlying problem. It will also just make it harder to deal with once you can no longer ignore it away.

There are going to be times when the negative emotions are just temporary. Everyone feels a little down every once in a while. However, if it happens on a frequent basis, your mind is trying to tell you something and you need to address it.

2. Understand the causes

Once you recognize the negative emotion you’re feeling, you need to understand just what is behind them. Every negative emotion has a cause. In many cases, it will be readily apparent what the cause is.
The trouble is that often the cause of your bad feelings might be hard to see. Is it your home life, work, friends, unrealized dreams or various other frustrations? Take your time figuring it out and get to the root of what’s causing the negative emotion.

3. Take corrective action

Once you’ve narrowed the cause down, you need to take the necessary action to get rid of it. In some cases, it might be an easy fix. For example, if someone consistently makes you angry, you can avoid them.

In many other cases, you might need to take even bolder steps. An example of that would be ending a failing marriage or quitting your job. I’d be careful on these steps and only take them as long as you’re completely certain they are the ones causing the bad feelings.

Take Action on Bad Feelings

As you can see, bad feelings themselves aren’t the problem. Inaction is the problem. Doing nothing except wishing your bad feelings away is just like hoping your chronic stomach pain will just go away without a visit to the doctor. Both of those scenarios will just lead you to bigger problems in the future.

Hopefully you have a different opinion on negative emotions now. They’re not things designed to only make your life miserable. What they really are is a signal that it’s time for a change.


Steve is the writer behind Do Something Cool where he blogs about travel, motivation, self improvement and adventure.  He’s always looking for ways to make life more interesting.  Get tips on living life to the fullest by following him on Facebook.

Photo credit: ‘Feelings‘ by Big Stock


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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