Experts have linked positive mood and emotions to improved physical and emotional health for years. Now, new research indicates that negative moods may also be beneficial to our wellbeing, serving a specific function in employees’ lives by helping them to learn from experience and adapt their behavior.
A study at the University of New South Wales, Australia demonstrated that periods of low mood can increase attention, boost short-term memory and enhance communication skills. According to researcher, Dr. Joe Forgas, mild or temporary bad moods serve an important purpose by teaching us to cope and adapt resilience to challenging situations.
The idea that even negative moods serve a greater purpose is something of a new discovery. It runs counter to the popular “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” school of thought, suggesting that instead of immediately shaking off a bad mood, we may want to take time to learn what the mood is trying to tell us first.
Perspective can be a useful tool to help employees make bad moods more productive. Try suggesting the following tips to help them better understand where a mood originated, what they can learn from it, and how to apply those lessons constructively.
Step 1: Think back to when your mood began to identify the trigger.
Example Scenario 1: Unsolicited criticism about work performance triggered an irritated mood
Example Scenario 2: A reminder of a lost loved one triggered a sad mood
Step 2: Consider what the mood may be trying to tell you.
Example Scenario 1: Are you smarting because the criticism was justified and hit close to home, or because it was unfair or inappropriate?
Example Scenario 2: Did it bring up unresolved emotions? Have you taken time to mourn?
Step 3: Consider constructive actions.
Example Scenario 1: Change may be called for.
- Criticism was unfair – Can you let your resentment go or speak with your criticizer about how and why their approach was inappropriate and hurtful?
- Criticism was accurate – What can you do to work on the issue and turn performance around
Example Scenario 2: What can you do to process these memories in a healing way?
- Recall memories of your lost loved one from a place of gratitude “I’m happy to have known them. I was lucky to share fun times with them.”
- Put on a sad song and have a cathartic cry. Acknowledging loss and allowing related emotions can help to balance your mood and heal.