overcoming

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

  • Dreamdorian

    I call bad feelings “calls of action” :)

  • http://www.lifestyleupdated.com/ Slavko@LifestyleUpdated

    An article about something no one tried to speak out loud. 
    Bad feelings are there to remind us to pay more attention to the good ones if you ask me, but that’s only the side effect of them.
    I like how you label them as signals that let us know something is going in the bad direction; that we must take steps, bigger or smaller, in order to make our way out of it, improve with each bad feeling recognized as what it really is. 
    Great article Steve

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

      Bad feelings really are a signal to pay attention and take action.  It really is important to take those steps, big or small, to make positive change.  Then you’ll hopefully start heading in a better direction.

  • http://pristineperception.com/ Suzanne

    Negative emotions do indeed serve a purpose. If we don’ t act to resolve them what is left is a whirlwind of  negative actions (or re- actions)

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

      Yeah, it really can be a circle or whirlwind of negative actions if you don’t take any action on them.  So much better to address bad feelings as soon as possible to make sure you don’t get caught up like that.

  • http://leighpope.com/intimaciesq Jessica Pope

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your post. Ignoring my negative emotions is a form of self-harm: it’s ignoring critical information that my body/brain is sending. Only by looking at that information and learning from it can I continue to grow and evolve.

    You’ve pointed out something that’s crucial to remember, especially for those of us in the personal development/”self-help” space. Happiness may be the king of emotions, but all emotions serve a purpose.

    The most difficult thing to do is #3: take corrective action. There’s a saying in psychotherapy: insight doesn’t always lead to change. Many of my clients know the causes of their negative emotion. They know what to do to change it. But mustering up the “stuff” to actually make the change is still super-difficult.

    In my own life I continue to engage in patterns of behavior that I perceive as unhealthy. It’s comfort with the familiar, fear of the unknown, and fear of how others will judge me that keep me stuck. As I increase my awareness and recognition of all this, I’m better equipped to make the necessary changes.

    But it’s also a matter of practice. Some corrective actions (like going to bed earlier) are easier to enact than others (like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend). Practicing with smaller, “easier” actions helps me get into the habit of making corrective changes in my life. It builds my confidence and allows me to experience the benefits of changing my life for the better.

    As I build that confidence, it becomes easier for me to tackle the big issues. Your advice that we take action on bad feelings is essential, and it’s something we can get better at with practice.

    Thanks for talking about this. It’s something that doesn’t get talked about a lot but something we all need to hear. 

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

      It’s so true that all emotions serve a purpose.  Otherwise we wouldn’t have them.  It’s comes down to understanding the source for those emotions and taking action on them as needed.

      I agree with you that taking corrective action is the hardest part.  In my personal experience, in really does come down to confidence in yourself that you need to take the first step towards change.  But once you get into that habit of taking corrective changes, things gets better.

  • http://www.discoveryourpeace.com/ Eri

    Concisely on point… The sharp physical pain that leads to a doctor’s visit is a good analogy.  I find regularly taking time to get quiet enables me to diagnose and treat (action required) negative emotions.

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

       I think taking time to get quiet is great for this.  It can let you just examine yourself and reflect on what’s going on.

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

       I think taking time to get quiet is great for this.  It can let you just examine yourself and reflect on what’s going on.

  • http://www.inspiredgiftgiving.com/ Marquita Herald

    Great message. It’s all part of getting in tune with who we really are. For example, over the years I’ve come to recognize that when I begin to get frustrated with things and the people around me it rarely has anything to do with them, it’s a sign I’m stuck and overdue for change in my life. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

       I’ve also noticed that getting in tune with yourself can help.  It’s good to get an understanding of yourself and why you react to things the way you do.  It can give you a good idea of changes you need to make.

  • Brendan Baker

    Love the post, Steve!

    Completely agree with you. When going through tough times or experiencing something negative, this is when you learn and develop the most! Just knowing this fact can help you reframe the entire situation and actually start to feel positive aboutthe whole situation.

    Brendan

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

      I agree with you that you can reframe situations like that.  There is a lot you can learn from tough times.  So much better to see it as something positive to grow from.

  • http://www.Passionpoints.net/ Jo

    Steve,

    Great article! I agree that negative emotions are great if you want to get disturbed enough to change something about your situation. When we’re comfortable, we don’t change anything about our circumstances. So I think you’re right when you need to use your negative states to understand whats wrong and take corrective action. I like your view and you’re right to see it as provocative in todays search for Happiness.

    I hope you allow me one suggestion: I wouldn’t make it a rule of thumb that negative emotions are good. Sometimes negative emotions are there because you are unable to put things into Perspective or you are used to putting your Focus on what’s not right about a situation. Those are Habits, which once established can keep you from getting out of a negative State. Aside from your need to change, it’s also important to learn how to be resilient on ‘bad days’ and learn to not make a focus on the Negative a Habit.

    So maybe it’s both? Negative emotions are your alarm to tell you you need to change, and also time to reevaluate your own Focus and Habits. How are you wired in Terms of your Focus?

    Here’s an article that shows how to evaluate your own Resilience in life: http://fresh-start-blog.blogspot.com/2012/07/quick-test-to-evaluate-how-resilient.html

    Thanks again for the great article!

     

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

      That’s a great suggestion.  Sometimes negative emotions can be caused by your habits or perspective and that’s what you should be focusing on.  In those cases, you might be your own source of bad feelings.  I know I’ve had bad times in the past that I was able to turn around simply by putting things into a better perspective.

      So there might be times when your negative emotions are signally to you that you need to focus on yourself more and how you interact with the world.  It’s good to be aware of both external and internal causes of your bad emotions.

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

      That’s a great suggestion.  Sometimes negative emotions can be caused by your habits or perspective and that’s what you should be focusing on.  In those cases, you might be your own source of bad feelings.  I know I’ve had bad times in the past that I was able to turn around simply by putting things into a better perspective.

      So there might be times when your negative emotions are signally to you that you need to focus on yourself more and how you interact with the world.  It’s good to be aware of both external and internal causes of your bad emotions.

  • Helen

    Thank’s so much.
    Depression gets the best of me too often.Like NOW.Amazing good sense.
         grateful Helen

  • http://www.trorglade.net/ Tror Glade

    “Bad” feelings are warning signals gone haywire. If we pay close attention too our bodies, then we have the opportunity to ease the dis-ease before our emotions get the best of us. (preaching to the choir!) 

  • http://www.2knowmyself.com/ Farouk

    you are so right Steve
    bad feelings can be the primary force that motivates us to take action
    thanks for the post

  • http://hackmymodernlifestyle.com/ Hack My Modern Lifestyle

    Hi Steve, thanks for the great post! This is very logical approach to solving bad feelings. Having counselled many people, I realised that the hardest step is taking corrective actions after knowing the root cause of the negative feelings. It requires lots of courage to  accept the fact that others have failed them and take actions to correct those bad feelings. 

    • http://dosomethingcool.net/ Steve

      I’m glad you like the post.  You’re right that taking corrective action can be a hard step and it can require courage.  But it’s better to just understand what’s going on and take those steps you need to take.

  • http://hackmymodernlifestyle.com/ Hack My Modern Lifestyle

    Hi Steve, thanks for the great post! This is very logical approach to solving bad feelings. Having counselled many people, I realised that the hardest step is taking corrective actions after knowing the root cause of the negative feelings. It requires lots of courage to  accept the fact that others have failed them and take actions to correct those bad feelings. 

  • http://hackmymodernlifestyle.com/ Hack My Modern Lifestyle

    Hi Steve, thanks for the great post! This is very logical approach to solving bad feelings. Having counselled many people, I realised that the hardest step is taking corrective actions after knowing the root cause of the negative feelings. It requires lots of courage to  accept the fact that others have failed them and take actions to correct those bad feelings. 

  • Saurabh

    Wonderful article.I LOVED IT.

  • Saurabh

    Wonderful article.I LOVED IT.

  • Saurabh

    Wonderful article.I LOVED IT.

  • http://www.theterritoryproject.com/ Dan

    Great article!  As Napoleon Hill says…”Action is the real measure of intelligence.”

  • http://www.theterritoryproject.com/ Dan

    Great article!  As Napoleon Hill says…”Action is the real measure of intelligence.”

  • http://wwww.myhabiting.com/ Rob

    Also, if you try and repress your bad feelings without dealing with them, they only come back stronger and even harder to get out of.

  • http://www.followomswami.com/ Navjot

    What a different point of you and so inspirational. thanks

  • http://twitter.com/demiankasier Demian

    The hardest part of taking ‘bad’ is taking a ‘good’ action. So often I find myself going for ‘fast pleasure’ when I feel bad.

  • http://twitter.com/demiankasier Demian

    The hardest part of taking ‘bad’ is taking a ‘good’ action. So often I find myself going for ‘fast pleasure’ when I feel bad.

  • Ana Maria Saad

    Hi,
    Congrats on the great blog!
    Depression was a great master for me!
    I am a sucide survivor, I gave a speech at TED about it! http://talentsearch.ted.com/video/Ana-Maria-Saad-My-story-of-ment;TEDSao-Paulo
    I invite you to watch it and spread, as if people notice that it´s a subject important to be brought up I can be invited to TED 2013, and this helps to educate society about mental disorders, lessening prejudices, giving people hope that feeling good is possible!
    all the best! 

  • Pingback: [INFJ] INFJ Random Thoughts Thread - Page 323

  • Pingback: [INFJ] If you only knew the power of the dark side... - Page 4

  • Pingback: [INFJ] Personal Legends - Page 21