Well, that and "stop worrying or you'll give yourself an ulcer."
(Thanks, Mrs. Nicholson! Ulcers don't work that way! Anxiety is more than something other than an annoyance for you to deal with from 9 to 3! Fourth grade was a living nightmare and also I hate you!)
The truth of the matter is this, our negative emotions are just as important in our lives as our positive emotions.
I know that I, for one, used to view my negative emotions as things that were "bad", that I needed to change. But in his new book, The Power Of Negative Thinking, Dr. Tim Lomas shows what he's learned over the course of his career thus far — and a big part of that is how our understanding our negative emotions and letting them be can actually make us much more happier in the long run.
Here are some examples of the physical and mental benefits of our negative emotions. Now if you will excuse me, while you read I will go have a good cry.
1. Pulling away when you're sad
When you go through something like a big break up, or you're mourning the loss of a loved one, it's totally normal to retreat from the world, wrap yourself up in a blanket and lay in your bed with only Netflix and the delivery guy for company and comfort. It's just as normal for your friends to try and break you out of your funk.
But here's the thing, neuroscientists have found that when you retreat this way your brain is telling your body to go into its own very necessary form of hibernation. It's doing what it needs to do to let you heal and to help you feel stronger than ever. Let the streets know!
2. Crying your eyes out
I cry at the drop of the hat. Happy, sad, angry, I am prone to cry. I used to get frustrated about this because as a working woman it's a tough enough struggle as it is already without adding an ocean of tears into the equation. Plus, crying when you're say, having a fight with a partner, completely undermines you leaving both parties frustrated.
Luckily there's science behind our weeping. Tears remove toxins (including stress hormones), kill bacteria, and keep our mucus membranes moist and lubricated, making our sight better than ever. You know that great feeling of calm after a bout of weeping? There's biology behind it! Crying clears up your perspective in more ways than one.
3. Feeling incredibly bored
When I was kid I was constantly complaining to my parents about being bored. My dad would cryptically respond to my complaints with "talk to me in twenty years." I know what he means now, and I miss those days where I had even an extra to waste on a feeling like boredom.
It turns out I'm pining with good reason. A scientist discovered a strange pattern in our brain activity when we aren't engaged in a specific task. He called this pattern the Default Mode Network (DMN). Today neuroscientists believe that the DMN plays a critical role in our artistic ideas, new thoughts, and sense of self. In short, when you think you're bored you are probably right on track to be struck with a brilliant idea.
4. When you're lonely
There is a real difference between feeling lonely and enjoy solitude. In the fuss of our constantly connected age, now more than ever we need to remember not just how to disconnect, but how to be alone, enjoying or solitude without feeling "lonely."
Enjoying solitude can allow for your brain to "reboot", helps bolster productivity, and solve problems with greater ease. There's being to enjoying a night to yourself than eating a pint of ice cream and watching Mean Girls, science says so.
5. Those times anxiety strikes
Anxiety is something we all experience in one form or another. Unless you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, daily anxiety can be helpful in encouraging you to test your boundaries, push yourself, and to be better prepared to face adversity.
Astronaut Chris Hadfield calls this embracing the power of negative thinking, and he's right. Rather than looking at any of these negative feelings as hindrances, we should start seeing all the ways in which these natural and normal emotions help us in very real ways every day.