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Science shows that a number of factors determine our happiness: our circumstances, our biology, our expectations—the list goes on. But new research shows that there's one key to happiness that most people don't consider: How they process negative emotions.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Toronto, used a series of three experiments to look at the link between overall well-being and whether or not people accept negative emotions. For the first experiment, over 1,000 participants were instructed to fill out surveys rating their life satisfaction, depression symptoms, anxiety symptoms, mindfulness, number of stressful events, and more. They found that when people accepted negative feelings, they were healthier psychologically.
To further prove this point, researchers had 160 women—half of whom had experienced a significant life stressor within the past six months—either complete a neutral task or a stressful task. The outcome was similar to the larger experiment: The women who accepted feeling bad were healthier mentally.
Finally, 222 participants were asked to keep diary entries every night for two weeks, and they were asked to make notes about stressful events they'd experienced. They also rated the extent to which they felt 12 negative emotions like sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, shame, guilt, and more. Once again, the participants who willingly accepted their negative thoughts and feelings were happier overall.
To make a long story short, don't beat yourself up if you're feeling down. Instead, accept that a negative mental space is where you are, and allow it to pass when you're ready. You'll be happier in the long run.