Stop smiling and start crying  

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Over the past few years, society has created a norm of being happy as opposed to dealing with your problems, putting at risk people’s mental health in the long run.  Photo by Garry Knight from Flickr Creative Commons.

Over the past few years, society has created a norm of being happy as opposed to dealing with your problems, putting at risk people’s mental health in the long run. Photo by Garry Knight from Flickr Creative Commons.

“Good vibes only!” We have all heard it or seen it plastered on a laptop, t-shirt or water bottle, but have we ever stopped to question it? While this is obviously a well-meaning sentiment and positivity is an admirable goal to chase after, the fact of the matter is that you cannot have only good vibes. Or at least you should not. The human experience is made up of so many emotions, all serving important purposes. So next time you are feeling a “negative” emotion, instead of pushing it down in favor of “good vibes,” maybe it is time to listen to what your feelings are trying to tell you. 

Now, that is not a call to embrace pessimism or an implication that wallowing in negativity is healthy, but a suggestion that the term “negative” in reference to emotion may be inapt. While happiness fosters internal well-being, bringing about creativity and productivity, feelings on the opposite end of the spectrum serve as signals that something is wrong with our current situations and can therefore trigger a change.  

Research suggests that the goal of sadness is to alert us when something is wrong; once we recognize what is causing our sadness, we can take steps to remedy the situation. Of course, this is not true in every circumstance, as sometimes there is nothing to do besides allowing yourself to grieve and move on. On the bright side, overcoming adversity is a powerful experience that cultivates strength and growth. Furthermore, reaching out to others for comfort and support during these difficult times can lead to deeper relationships. There is also evidence that sadness can enhance one’s judgement, provide the motivation to make a necessary change and increase attentiveness. However, it is important to remember that these advantages only apply to temporary periods of sadness; “negative” emotions are only useful when they are felt, addressed and then released.  


Anxiety has many negative connotations revolving around it, when it actuality it can make us a more productive and focused for a short period of time. This is similar to how being sad or angry every once in a while is also beneficial.  Photo by Dallas Ray Witte from Flickr Creative Commons.

Anxiety has many negative connotations revolving around it, when it actuality it can make us a more productive and focused for a short period of time. This is similar to how being sad or angry every once in a while is also beneficial. Photo by Dallas Ray Witte from Flickr Creative Commons.

While many people try to suppress their anger, anger is a natural part of the fight or flight response, allowing us to sense danger and quickly respond. Unchecked, anger can be a harmful and destructive force. Yet, when channeled into productive outlets, the passion of anger can be an even stronger catalyst for change than sadness. Anger may be the fuel someone needs to fight back against a perceived injustice.  

In large doses, anxiety can be a crippling feeling, but low levels of anxiety are advantageous for problem-solving. Similarly, doubt encourages us to recognize that we are fallible and seek advice. Guilt can be an important indicator that we are doing something wrong. Boredom can inspire stimulation and challenge. Instead of trying to escape the discomfort or pain of these “negative” emotions, we should accept and learn from them. Once we confront our feelings, we are much better off than if we had simply dismissed them and painted on a smile. Besides, you can only ignore your emotions for too long before they start to consume you.  

Regardless of the evolutionary advantages to having a complex spectrum of emotions, it is simply okay to feel sad sometimes. No one wants to be upset, angry or anxious, but these feelings all contribute to what it means to be human. Life is all about balance; there is no need to run from “negativity” in relentless pursuit of good vibrations. Sometimes there is just a simple comfort in letting yourself cry or shout. And as the great Anonymous once said, “you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.” Part of what makes those “good vibes” feel so good is knowing what the bad vibes feel like. Having an emotional range allows us to appreciate feelings like joy and excitement so much more than if elation was our perpetual state of being.  


Veronica Eskander is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at veronica.eskander@uconn.edu.

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