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More practical than positive


The Story

The other day I was feeling really miserable. I don't know why, though it was 'blue Monday' as it happens (but judging by the research I don't think it was related).

I woke up and didn't want to get out of bed. Everything I did that day felt like a huge effort, and several times I just wanted to cry. As a pretty positive person, this feeling is quite rare for me and so was pretty unexpected.

I tried all the positive psychology techniques which I regularly practice when I need a boost of joy – thinking what I was grateful for, thinking about my future goals, trying to think through why I was feeling the way I was (and failing!). None of it worked, and in fact it made me feel even sadder at times.

In the end I stopped trying to stop myself crying and let a few tears flow whilst having a cuddle from my other half (who by this point was rather confused). After a few minutes I felt a little better. Combine that with a delicious dinner, glass of wine and a Harry Potter film in the evening, and I was ready to put the day behind me and head to bed – though the sinking feeling hadn't entirely disappeared. Thankfully it has now.*

The Thinking

Have you ever felt like this? I'll bet you have.

For all the positive psychology in the world, there are moments where the best possible practical solution is to just let yourself feel sad. And it's not just my experience that suggests this – the research does too.

Barbara Fredrickson's research shows that we should aim to feel at least three positive emotions to every one negative for a healthy balance. What we sometimes forget when hearing this is how important that one negative can be. How else would we know how good the positives are?

Emotional intelligence literature encourages a similar thing. In the four-step model put together by Dr Susan David (and based on the original Mayer-Salovey research), we are reminded that we need to Recognise, Understand, Use and Manage our emotions – positive or negative. Sometimes we're tempted to skip straight to 'Managing' when we don't like how we feel. The messages our emotions are telling us may be very important.

Much like a gym or sports instructor may tell you to 'listen to your body' for aches and pains, so as not to risk further injury, I'd suggest you do the same with your mind (or your gut, depending on where you feel your emotions). Listen to it. And if you need to default to a cheesy movie or a bar of chocolate, don't beat yourself up about it.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this in the comments box, if you have days like I've described, what works for you?


*Please note that if you're feeling like this regularly or for an extended period of time, it's very important to seek some professional support. The discussions here are related to short term sad feelings (a few days at most).

Well being


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