Thursday, 8 August 2019

There is a silver lining of sadness: 7 surprising benefits of low mood

Beautiful blue flowers

Sadness is commonly represented with a negative emphasis on its consequences to our well-being. The function of our affective responses is complex, emotions are not good versus bad. There is a silver lining in sadness.  

Some say that it is impossible to comprehend joy without sadness. Others argue that sadness leads to greater appreciation during positive moments. When you learn about the benefits of sadness, it will help you to move through the sadness experience more constructively. 

If you are not in control of your low mood, it is easy to fall back into an apathetic state. In contrast, knowing the benefits that can be cultivated from sadness will help you to feel more empowered. This post will discuss 7 surprising benefits of low mood and teach you that there is a silver lining in sadness. 

1.       Sadness can facilitate your creativity and imagination

Mood disorders are 8 to 10 times more common in individuals with a creative career than in general population (Jamison, 1993). Furthermore, evidence from numerous studies indicates that inducing sadness leads to greater creativity and more innovative creative solutions to problems (Kaufmann, 2003). 

This means that sadness can become your source of creative inspiration. You can use your negative energy as an expressive force. Adopt sadness as your creative tool.

2.       Sadness can improve your thinking

Experiencing sadness can improve your thinking as it linked to more attentive processing of information compared to a happy mood. 

Sadness results in a ‘bottom-up’ information processing – where your attention is focused on the external world. In contrast, the ‘top-down’ processing found in happy individuals relies on prior knowledge and expectations. You can read more about this here

This means that sadness can be used to improve your inductive reasoning. Consequently, the ability to notice smaller details will aid your problem-solving skills.

3.       Sadness can improve your judgments

Our judgments are often tainted by different biases. For instance, judgments of others can suffer from a halo effect – a type of cognitive bias in which the initial impression of individual influences our judgements of that persons’ character. 

When we first experience someone positively, it becomes difficult to construct balanced judgments without relying on past experience. 

Another common cognitive bias is the fundamental attribution error – the tendency to underestimate the situational factors on behaviour and overestimate the impact of personal characteristics. Sadness results in a more attentive focus to the external environment. It helps to overcome cognitive biases, reducing judgemental mistakes (Forgas, 1998a)

4.       Sadness can facilitate your perception of truth

Evidence suggests that sadness is linked to a more accurate perception of truth. Compared to happy individuals, people who experience sadness tend to show the more critical perception of others. 

They are more likely to judge whether someone is smiling genuinely. Sadness results in increased levels of skepticism, which can be beneficial as naivety often lead to disappointment. I think to an extent, experiencing negative emotions offers an opportunity of understanding the world through a clearer lens.

5.       Sadness can improve your memory

The adaptive function of sadness extends to memory as well. Memory often plays tricks on us, we remember things that never happened in the first place. 

The role of sadness in memory has been explored in eye-witness scenarios. Research demonstrates that sadness helps to reduce our susceptibility to misleading information.  This means that a negative mood can help to ensure memory accuracy.

6.       Sadness can increase your motivation

It turns out that being sad can aid your motivation. I have discussed the concept of defensive pessimism in one of my previous posts. The idea that sadness can increase your motivation, follows a somewhat similar idea to defensive pessimism. 

Goldenberg and Forgas (2012) state that compared to positive mood, negative affect is associated with greater level of perseverance. They argue that individuals who experience sadness are more likely to put greater value on future success, whereas experiencing a constant positive mood can discount the importance of success. Consequently, negative affect helps with motivation.   

7.       Sadness can improve your communication

Sadness is a natural part of human experience, we all experience sadness at some point in our lives. Improved attention and judgments associated with negative affect can also improve your communication with others. 

The ability to notice smaller details can help with understanding ambiguous information. There is nothing worse than misjudging what someone has said to you, isn’t?

These are all 7 surprising benefits of sadness. While extreme negative mood and depression are detrimental, mild sadness can be beneficial in many areas of life. Sadness is not just doom and gloom.

The cult of happiness and positivity can be disheartening, the pursuit of happiness can feel like climbing a mountain. So instead of disappointment in sad moments, embrace your sadness as a natural part of human existence. Use it as a motivational force, make more accurate judgments, communicate with others and see the world more clearly than ever.

I hope you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for similar content. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram. Let’s be friends :) 

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  1. I never thought of sadness in this way. I suppose there are quite a few benefits to feeling it, after all we can't be positive and happy all the time. It's just another spectrum of emotions that we need to go through. Great post :D

  2. Great post. I don't think a lot of us would consider all these positive points of sadness. But I do always feel almost refreshed after I've been through a bad time!


    1. I have the same refreshed feeling :) Thanks for the comment!


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