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Why People Who Are Sullen From Time To Time Are Happier People

Why People Who Are Sullen From Time To Time Are Happier People

Happiness is not always a good thing. And when you think about it, this fact should be obvious. All pleasures in life, whether food or games or company, become negative things when taken to extremes. So why should happiness itself be an exception?

Studies have shown the potential downsides of excessive happiness. According to the Association for Psychological Science, researchers have found “that people who are feeling extreme amounts of happiness may not think as creatively and also tend to take more risks.”

So, if you feel sullen from time to time, you should take some pride in it. For here are some ways in which being grouchy can make you a better person overall.

You are more creative

We all know the stereotype of the miserable, starving artist who produces great cultural works. Just think of Vincent van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, or Franz Kafka. Even Aristotle wondered why outstanding artists and philosophers all appeared to be melancholy.

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In 2010, researcher Modupe Akinola conducted a study which further correlated negative emotions with high creativity. Akinola induced positive and negative emotions in two different groups by either praising or criticizing their hopes and dreams. She then had the groups get to work building collages, at which point the collages were evaluated by professional artists.

The artists found that the collages created by those with negative emotions were superior.

Why is this the case? Australian psychologist Joe Forgas argues that those with negative emotions can focus better on details and are more attentive, which leads to better artistic work.

Creativity by its very nature requires someone to step away from the mass of humanity and create something which will stand apart. Stepping off that path can lead to loneliness and then misery. But it can also lead to great things being accomplished, which can explain why those poor artists who accomplish so much exist.

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You are a better decision maker

Forgas has also found that unhappy people have other advantages beyond a superior focus on details. In 2009, he conducted an experiment to test their overall mental capabilities.

Forgas showed people films and asked them to think about thoughts which would put them in a happy or unhappy mood. Then he had them take part in a series of tasks, including judging the truth of urban myths and providing eyewitness accounts of events.

Forgas found that those in an unhappier mood did a better job at accurately judging what was true and what was not. He noted that negative thinking promoted “careful thinking” and that unhappy people paid better attention to the outside word. They also made better communicators and writers compared to happy people.

As noted above, happy people tend to take more risks because the negative emotions which may make them more adverse to risk are weaker, making them much more expensive insurance prospects. If that is combined with a negative person’s superior focus on details, that can help better understand the choices behind a decision.

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You will strive more than happy people

Sullen people, by their very nature, are not happy with the way things are. This means that they are more willing to advance and change themselves to improve their prospects compared to happy people who are content to remain as they are.

In one study, psychologist Edward Diener found that college freshman who identified themselves as very happy earned about $3,500 less in their late 30s compared to their colleagues who were not as happy. Diener suggested that it was this very happiness which contributed to these smaller earnings, as the unhappy people were more inclined to change careers or improve their education in order to progress.

It is those who are not content who change the course of human history. Washington and the Founding Fathers were unhappy with British taxes and regulations on their way of life, and thus they founded a nation. Martin Luther King Jr. was unhappy with the treatment of his fellow African Americans, and thus fought to change it.

Perseverance and striving for a better world often requires someone who is sullen with the things they are. That striving leads to greater happiness both for the individual and the greater community.

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You do not always need to be happy

For our entire lives, we have been told that we have a right to be happy. But, as we look at all seven billion people in this planet, can you truly believe that every single one of these seven billion can attain constant happiness?

No. It is impossible. And that is perfectly fine.

Happiness is like a breeze or a puff of smoke. The harder you try to grasp it, the more easily it slips between your fingers. And sometimes, a sullen individual can think better, plan better, and dream for a different route which will lead to more happiness over the long run.

Featured photo credit: Clemens v. Vogelsang via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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