For some time now I tried to convince people that we should want to be happy ALL THE TIME. I even called my seminars “Happiness Today and Forever”. It was a mistake.
I know today that both positive and negative emotions have advantages and disadvantages. This is to say that there are really good reasons why we want to be positive AND negative. Additionally, there are also really good reasons why you DON’T want to be positive AND negative.
Practically, we are looking at 2×2 graph:
This is to say that “yes” occasionally you want to feel Negative and Unhappy. Being pure happy is not all that healthy, as we have negative emotions for a reason. However, I will already mention that we don’t want to be negative and unhappy more than 20% of our time, as otherwise it is widely unhealthy, too.
Thus, to have a full picture, we need to know all the different reasons why Want or Don’t Want to be Positive AND Negative. Specifically:
1. Advantages of Positive Emotions – Aka. Why we want to be Happy
There is a good reason to want to feel as happy as we can be, too. Positive people tend to:
- Have better relationships
- Earn more money
- Save more money
- Be healthier, both physically and mentally
- Be more charitable, giving and helping
- Live longer by up to 10 years
Better relationships – We are naturally attracted to positive people. Oppositely, naturally tend to want to avoid the negative ones. We do so because of mirror neurons. They are responsible for transferring other people’s emotions on to us and other way around, too. Essentially, if others are happy, we will tend to feel happier. If they are unhappy, we will tend to feel unhappier. This is a why we are suggested to surround ourselves with positive people and to avoid the negative ones. Indeed, one study shown that if a friend of a friend suddenly becomes happier, than we will also experience more happiness in our lives. That’s how strong our connection is! Thus, by being happy we become like magnets to other people who want to be happy, which only makes us happier, cultivating a virtuous cycle of happiness. Oppositely, by being negative we cultivate a vicious circle of negativity that can push people away from us, which is why negative people have on average fewer good friends and worst love relationships.
Earning more money – Saying that we attract more money into our lives by being happy is a big statement. It sounds a bit like law of attraction, which some people believe or don’t. Still, we can make it practical with a hypothetical example. Imagine, there are two candidates with a similar work experience who are competing for the same promotion. The only difference between two candidates is that one person has a positive attitude towards his work and life, while another one has a negative. Which one would you hire? If the answer is not clear to you yet, a logical decision would be to hire a more positive person, as they will feel more enthusiastic and motivated about their work, meaning that they will tend to do more.
Save more money – From a consumer perspective, it is more profitable to be happy. Happy people just don’t spend as much money buying things as negative people do. If we are positive and energetic, we will simply be too busy enjoying our life to buy companies products. Oppositely, negative people have a need to fill up internal emptiness. One big way they will try to do so is by buying stuff. This is indeed the promise of our current commercial society, even though often society creates this internal emptiness in the first place.
More charitable, giving, helping, and altruistic – If we help others we feel happier. By feeling happier we want to help others. It is a virtuous circle of happiness and it isn’t random either. Historically, human survival often depended on social collaboration, naturally becoming part of our psychology. If our tribe is doing well, we tend to do well, and other way around. Thus, it was in our best interest to help others to do well. However, when in tribe was not doing well, people often became selfish, individualistic, and compulsive takers. This is also part of survival mechanism, whereas as to help other often we need to help ourselves first. As such, negativity often comes from feeling of scarcity and scarcity comes from the feeling of negativity. Compulsive consumers often are trying to satisfy internal vacuum with possessions, status, and experiences. But in a world of too much, more this is rarely a solution. Our convenience creates an illusion of happiness, hiding us from the true source of our dissatisfaction. However, sooner or later, reality kicks in and, regardless of our financial success, we have to face our demons.
Negative emotions are also important, but in a different way. Specifically:
- There is a looming danger behind every corner
- Only the paranoid survive
- We need to prepare for negativity in our heads
Looming danger behind every corner – Negative emotions point us towards something, which needs our immediate attention. Biologically we feel a spike of adrenaline and cortisol. Our body enters into a fight-or-flight reflex, preparing to help us to deal with a source of negativity, such as dangers of being run down by a car, a fly entering into our eye, or eating some rotten food.
Only the paranoid survive – Back in cavemen day there were way more immediate dangers to peoples survival than there are today. Thus, if people were too relaxed and positive, they could become too ignorant towards danger signs and to be eaten by a lion, for example. Oppositely, paranoid people worried about everything, even thing that they did not need to worry about. They would prepare for the sources of negativity and survive. This is probably why historically more negative people survived and as result today it is easy for us to be negative rather than positive. Simply said, although current world is much safer that pre-historic jungles, we are still worrying about being eaten by the lion.
Preparing for negativity in our heads – We have a powerful brain. It remembers well what happened to us in the past, both positive and negative events, as to help us predict the future. This is a powerful mechanism that very few living creatures have. It helps us to remember what we should and should not do and take appropriate steps. For one it helped us create this amazing society which we are living in today. Thus, negative information helps to create a better future, as long as we don’t forget to enjoy this future we are creating.
Addicted to drama – In many ways people connect by complaining about things. Indeed, if one person is happy and other one is not, the last thing the unhappy person wants to hear is why happy person’s life is so great. They have a bigger fish to fry, so to say. Additionally, being negative is a great way to get compassion and even attention from other people. This leads people to act negative, almost tactically, making certain people addicted to drama and other negative emotions. And while this tactic is effective, of course it is negative on many levels, as we are going to see right now.
There are good reasons to be negative, but there is also a good reasons negative emotions are called negative:
- Negative emotions are killing us
- Negative emotions feel horrible
- Negative emotions change more than how we feel
- Negativity attracts negativity
Negative emotions are killing us – We already saw that negative emotions are conductive to change of internal chemistry in our bodies. Thus, after negative emotions are resolved our body should naturally return to an equilibrium. However, if the negative emotions persist, it can create a chemical misbalance, eventually taking a toll on our bodies. People who experience negative emotions for long-term tend to be more suspected to a range of disease, infections, to experience a headache, muscle pain, increase a chance of developing diabetes, cancer, and many other health problems. This is perhaps why positive people tend to live 10 years longer than their negative counterparts. This is specially a problem for people who hold to negative emotions longer than necessary, such as it is the case with people who are constantly negative.
Negative emotions feel horrible – I guess the biggest reason for me to try to stay away from negative emotions is because I feel terrible feeling negative. These emotions are destructive on many other levels, as people will go in a great length to get rid of them negativity, which makes this whole discussion positive vs. negative no so innocent after all.
Negative emotions change more than how we feel – Negative emotions are persistent. If a person is generally speaking negative, they are likely to continue to feel negative most of the time, even if their real desire is to feel positive. This is because emotional negativity (and also positivity) are like muscle. The more we practice them, the stronger and more persistent they become. They even change our internal chemical structure in a way that negative people naturally have more already mentioned chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol. This is to say that negativity change not only our bodies, but our bodies, and who we are as people.
Negativity attracts negativity – In my book, I talk about how negative thinking breeds more negative thinking. This is partially because brain is structured in a way that we can only have either negative emotions or positive emotions, never both in the same time. As such, by being negative, we only see negativity in things, which seems to attract them to our lives. Oppositely, when we focus on positivity, we see love, opportunity, and happiness all around us. It is the cup half empty or half full. The amount of liquid in the cup stays the same. It is our outlook on the cup that changes.
If you want to be successful, take risks – One of the biggest advice in life and business is to take risks. It is a great advice, but often we forget what it really means. After all, very few people are actually following this advice. Practically, this means that when we are negative, we are less likely to do what we really want to do. We think of all the reasons why things won’t work out and why they will fail, so we are less likely to act on them. However, when we are positive, we are focusing on the reverse, why thing will work. In turn, it makes us more likely to act, take risk, and lives to the fullest.
4. Disadvantage of Feeling Positive
As mentioned in the beginning of this post, for a long time, I used to be ignorant to the disadvantages of happiness. I had few big discussions on this topic and experienced other life negativity, just because I was trying to be positive:
- Snobbism is not only for the higher class
- Don’t be a clown of your classroom
- Live fast and die young is just an expression
Snobbism is not only for the higher class – When we feel super happy, sometimes people call accuse us of being snobbish, almost as if I think I am better than other people. Thus, happiness can disconnect us from other people, who are unable to feel as happy as we are. This is to say that even true happiness has its disadvantages and pursuit of it can put us on a lonely road.
Don’t be a clown of your classroom – Everyone likes a good joke. But, when I was young I used to be a “clown” of my class. I used to make inappropriate jokes while I was supposed to be studying. They made my classmates laugh, which in turn made me feel better, more connected, and accepted by my peers. This was indeed of a great value to me at that time. But, of course this is not the only way to get attention, connection, and acceptance from the peers. There are much better ways to do so than distracting the class, distracting myself from teachings of the class, and trying to play clown for applauses of others. In other words, making jokes was a tactic of a low self-esteem individual I used to be in the past. This is not to say that only low self-esteem people make jokes. Rather, it depends from which energy it is coming from, whether it is for self-amusement in a position of strength, or amusement of others, from a position of weakness.
Live fast and die young is just an expression – As we have already seen, negative emotions warn us about upcoming dangers. However, if we are too positive, we can become to cocky, ignorant, and recklessness in out actions. This is to say that we can do some dangerous things not really aware of total possible costs of our actions. As such, while “live fast and die young” may sound like a great philosophy of life, but often it is equally important to have a long-term outlook on life.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that most people don’t understand why they want to be positive or negative. This is a mistake as often they are using an incorrect emotion in most incorrect times. For most, people this is especially true when it comes to negative emotions, meaning that they stay negative longer than necessary, sometimes for years at time. For others, like me in the past, happiness is a trap.
Still, it is not enough to know advantages and disadvantages of positive and negative emotions. It is important to know how to cultivate the first and forgo the second. Luckily, this is what my blog is all about.
So if you liked this post, show me some love, and check out my book, social media, newsletter, and other products that I have online. Have a great day!