The Good News About Bad Moods

With an overwhelming emphasis in schools, at work, and in the media on keeping a positive mindset and practicing gratitude, naturally skeptical people may welcome evidence that cynicism has its own advantages.  According to a recent BBC Future report, pessimistic people may be better decision-makers and negotiators leading them to earn more, have more stable marriages, and even live longer. 

A Dutch study found that anger fueled more creativity among a group of students who competed with peers who were made to feel sad.  It’s not uncommon for the most successful and original innovators to have a reputation as being quick-tempered.  Getting fired-up about something not only increases motivation but the chemicals released by the body’s flight or fight response allow people to quickly make new mental connections.

Although it may not be pleasant for co-workers or housemates, venting short bursts of anger can be cathartic; research has found that suppressing anger can increase the risk of heart disease patients having a heart attack significantly.  Although the root cause is not clear, researchers believe that suppressing anger can lead to chronic high blood pressure whereas releasing feelings of anger allows blood pressure to return to normal after a short period of time. 

Negative emotions are also associated with a better awareness of social cues and a greater sense of fairness.  People who are happier are also more selfish while those who feel a little sad, angry, or fearful are more likely to treat others equally.  Happiness can also leave people vulnerable to risky behavior such as overeating, drinking excessively, or having unsafe sex due.  Oxytocin, sometimes called the love hormone, can mask threats to our well-being and make people more gullible and less able to think critically.

Always seeing the bright side of things may not actually be in people’s best interest.  A healthy dose of pessimism forces people to plan for the worst and avoid future problems.  Maybe the curmudgeon knows something all the Pollyanna’s of the world are too blissed out to notice.  In uncertain times, trying to plan for what comes next, taking a look at things through a negative filter may indeed have its benefits.