when it comes to happiness, what you think about your emotions matters!

when it comes to happiness, what you think about your emotions matters!

via the Greater Good by Jill Suttie

Emotions can be mystifying at times. After all, who hasn’t been waylaid by sudden anger out of proportion to whatever prompted it, or felt gloomy for seemingly no reason?

To add to the complexity, we also have beliefs about our emotions—whether they’re a positive, manageable force in our lives, or unwanted interlopers that wreak havoc on our psyche. These beliefs may be unconscious, likely based on our own experiences or the implicit and explicit messages we receive from our parents and our culture.

Now, new research suggests that these beliefs about our feelings—whether they are “good” or “bad,” “controllable” or “uncontrollable”—affect us in important ways. Believing that emotions are generally helpful, but can be changed when problematic, may help us recover better from emotional upset and prevent us from falling into depression and anxiety.

“Learning why people have emotions, how they are adaptive, and how they can benefit you in some ways is crucial to understanding them and can benefit your well-being,” says researcher Eric Smith of Stanford University. 

Can you change your emotions?

Imagine that a close friend ignores you when you arrive at her holiday party. You’d be angry or upset, right? But if you tried thinking about the situation differently—maybe your friend didn’t see you or was distracted with host duties—that would help calm you down and keep you from acting out.

The ability to manage difficult emotions—something scientists call “emotion regulation”—is tied to several positive outcomes, like better mental healthmoral decision making, and memory, as well as general well-being. Using a particular emotion-management strategy called “reappraisal,” which involves reinterpreting an emotionally upsetting event in a more positive light (as you might do at that holiday party), is often very effective.

Yet some of us don’t believe we have any control over our emotions. With that in mind, several new studies looked at how this belief may affect how we act and how we feel.

In one study, 355 Filipino college students reported on whether they thought emotions were controllable by agreeing or disagreeing with statements like, “If you want to, you can change the emotions you have” or “The truth is, you have very little control over your emotions.” They also reported on how much they used reappraisal to handle their emotions, and to what extent they experienced positive feelings, life satisfaction, and depression or anxiety.

The findings showed that how people thought about their emotions was important. If they believed feelings were malleable, they used reappraisal more frequently, and in turn they had greater emotional well-being and life satisfaction.

“How people think about the malleability of their emotions seems to be a crucial factor in emotional functioning,” conclude the researchers.

Though this study focused on a single point in time, a recent study by University of Toronto researcher Brett Ford and her colleagues found a similar pattern over time.

Over two hundred 10- to 18-year-old youths reported on whether they believed emotions could be changed or were unchangeable, and whether they used reappraisal or suppression (trying to tamp down feelings) to manage difficult emotions. Then, researchers measured their emotional well-being at the beginning of the study and 18 months later, using surveys and reports from parents.

Youths who believed emotions were controllable used reappraisal more and were less depressed 18 months later than those who didn’t. In addition, they didn’t try to suppress their feelings nearly as often as other young people—a good sign, as suppression has been tied to poorer emotional health.

  • Gaining Perspective on Negative EventsTake a step back and analyze your feelings without ruminatingTry It Now

This suggests a potential pathway through which emotion beliefs impact well-being.

“Once you have emotion beliefs, the beliefs shape what you do when difficult emotions come up in daily life,” says Ford. “While it’s also possible the reverse is true—that very intense depression could make you believe that emotions are uncontrollable—we didn’t find much evidence for that.”

Many of us have heard of the benefits of a growth mindset: When people believe that learning and intelligence come from effort rather than natural talent, they are more motivated to persevere, leading them to perform better. Emotion researchers believe there may be something parallel going on with emotions: When you believe that feelings are something you can impact through effort, rather than being out of your control, you may be willing to try strategies to manage them better…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE