Benefits of Accepting Negative Emotions

Negative emotions are an unpleasant and unavoidable part of life. These feelings often stem from the difference between expectations and reality. When negative emotions creep in during holidays, birthdays, and other events where people are expected to feel only positive emotions, anxiety and distress can become enhanced. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. Studies show that accepting negative emotions, but not the situations that cause them, can lead to better overall psychological health.

Parenting is hard, and negative emotions aren’t uncommon—for parents or children. Parents are especially susceptible to comparing themselves to what they see on social media and TV or even comparing themselves to what they think they should be feeling. Responding negatively to these emotions can allow negative feelings to take hold and turn into long-term issues such as anxiety or depression.

According to research by Emily Willroth, “People who habitually judge unpleasant emotions such as sadness and anger as inappropriate or negative are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than those who are more accepting of these types of emotions.” Basically, accepting negative emotions and understanding that these emotions don’t represent a permanent state of being but are instead temporary and fleeting can help you maintain a healthier state of mind. 

The benefits of understanding and applying this knowledge for parents can be significant, especially if you’re someone who struggles with these issues. This information is also applicable to your children. Much of the negative behavior displayed by children stems from being unable to handle negative emotions.

Teach children that it is OK to feel bad or experience negative emotions when something happens that they don’t like. Understanding that these feelings are temporary and won’t last forever can help them to better regulate their emotions. Keep in mind that accepting negative emotions doesn’t mean you accept the situations that cause them.

“It’s OK and often beneficial to try to change the situations that give rise to negative emotions,” Willroth says. “For example, you might make changes to a busy holiday schedule so that you feel less overwhelmed, or you might set boundaries with your family to reduce feelings of sadness or anger.”

Though it’s much easier said than done, accepting negative emotions and understanding that the associated feelings will pass can help with your overall mental health and well-being. Teaching your children to do the same will help them grow up more mentally resilient.

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