The news is filled with landmines every day. I’ve taken to calling my glance at the news sites my “trigger time” because I know it will trigger some terrible emotions in me. Research says that may actually be the key to a better life, that allowing yourself to feel your feelings will make you happier.
Earlier this year, a study showed that “participants who experienced more of the emotions that they desired reported greater life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms, regardless of whether those desired emotions were pleasant or unpleasant.”
What does that all mean?
Well, consider the #Metoo moment. Day by day there are new allegations and terrible revelations that can remind you of your own painful past and of the deep injustice that exists in the world. Anger feels like a given and after how much and how long women have suffered, rightfully so. But, sometimes in our efforts to be adults, we may label emotions the researchers studied (“hatred, hostility, anger, and contempt”) as bad emotions.
Control your temper.
Rules like those seem quaint in this time when we can all say anything we want in multiple mediums. We’re not talking about random, angry tweeting as a way to express emotions.
Feeling is not the same thing as lashing out.
In fact, if we were all *feeling* our emotions more, we might be better off. It would be better than pushing the emotions down and letting them linger in our bodies. And better than releasing those feelings only to use them to make someone else’s life miserable. Or worse.
This time of year can also be a prime time to test out feeling your feelings. The researchers haven’t yet studied fear, guilt, sadness or shame, but that’s often the menu at your parents’ house for the holidays, isn’t it? A heaping helping of fear to start and then guilt and sadness as side dishes with some shame for dessert. Yum!
If you find yourself in the same conversation you have every year with your grandmother (maybe about why you’re not married), figure out how right then or later with a spiked holiday drink, you might be able to feel your emotions. When you let out that anger or sadness or shame, you might discover your feelings are the best gift you could receive.
One researcher in the study reminds us that, “Happiness is more than simply feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness is about having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have.”
Here’s to more meaning and value. And lots and lots of happiness.