The Bright Side of a Bad Mood

Lots of magazines and websites out there like to Pollyanna out and tell us about the benefits of a great mood, how to have a better attitude, and how just being positive helps us achieve our goals . . . somehow. Here’s the thing, though: being in a good mood isn’t the only way to be successful, productive, and creative. In fact, sometimes, a bad mood is better.

That’s the gist of a study published in Current Directions in Psychological Science. The study, by psychologist Joseph Forgas, evaluates a number of other studies relating to negative moods and the positive effects they have. For example:

  • People in sad moods are better at remembering details of unusual incidents.
  • Bad moods reduced the amount we stereotype others; people in bad moods are better at ignoring irrelevant traits such as physical attractiveness.
  • People in sad moods are more willing to work on demanding tasks, are more persuasive, and are more concerned with fair play than people in happy or neutral moods.
  • Sad moods foster attention to detail and analytical thinking.
  • Having a negative mood improves eyewitness memory; people in happy moods are more likely to provide false and misleading information than people in unhappy moods.

So, the next time someone tells you to think positively, feel free to make with the snark and tell them that you’re trying to improve your analytical thinking. If they’re really positive, they’re understand.


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