What impact do negative emotions have on behaviour and wellbeing?

What are negative emotions and are they really as harmful as we initially think? There is a whole myriad of psychological papers written about what how depression and anxiety is caused at a deep level and how Jung and Freud would analyse it. However, there are positives related to negative emotions. Before going into the positives let’s look at the lengths people go to in order to prevent negative emotions in life.

Positive and negative in emotions

From current studies there is a correlation between negative emotions and mental health. According to Mental Health First Aiders England figures (20/05/2020) 792 Million people are affected by mental health worldwide. The World Health Organisation state that, more than 264 Million people of all ages specifically suffer with depression and more women than men are affected. In the Royal Society for Public Health 2019 publication they state that In England, the annual cost of mental disorder in England was estimated as £105billion. Approximately £30billion of this is due to absenteeism at work. Unfortunately to date this is a saddening rising metric.


Coping with negatives emotions

Typical ways people cope with the impact of negative emotions are; time off work (absenteeism), counselling and medication. As can be seen the figures of absenteeism due to mental illness are eye opening. One of the common default methods of supporting people through negative emotions like anxiety and depression is by medication using anti-depressants such as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s), with trade names such as Prozac and Sertraline. Although these can be seen as a supportive intervention method they are essentially a sticking plaster to the point whereby one can medicate into numbness. In some cases, it is difficult to feel human in relation to negative and positive emotions.

Iliard 2009, states that continually being stuck on negative emotions can increase our bodies’ production of our stress hormone, cortisol. This then restricts and depletes our cognitive ability to be able to proactively solve problems and can also damage our immune defences, making us more susceptible to other illness. Research by Epel et al, 2004 has shown that chronic stress has also been linked to a shorter lifespan.

Studies have shown to link that the negative emotion of anger has a correlation with various health concerns including digestive disorders, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (Hendricks et al, 2013). When poorly managed anger is the negative emotion that has been shown to have the highest impact on our health and well-being.

Boerma (2007) showed that unhealthy amounts of anger were linked to increased levels of cortisol, resulting in a decreased efficiency of immune system. From Boerma’s research he found that people who were chronically angry were more likely to feel run down, develop the flu, colds, have asthmatic symptoms and skin diseases such as rashes in comparison to non-chronically angry people.

As stress increases within a person the hormone Cortisol can be activated by negative emotional triggers. When this hormone is suppressed a person’s level of immune response can also decrease.

Could negative emotions cause cancer?

Research exists that looks at the correlation between negative emotions and cancer. More specifically, into how anger can possibly lead to cancer. Although anger can be perfectly normal to feel however, it is when it is continually bottled-up that it can lead to problems and transfer to what researchers refer to as unhealthy anger (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015).

Potential positives

It would now be worth returning to the potential benefits of negative emotions. Within the driving factors that motivate humans there are towards and away from strategies. A towards strategy is a very powerful driving force and when one truly focusses on what they want it becomes a force of nature. However, it is ruminating about the negative emotions that makes a person focus on what they don’t want (a substantial energy vacuum)! Initially this can have its uses, such as giving you the kick up the backside to start you off on your goal. A short, sharp time frame is key for this to be effective. Although, if this does turn into a longer term thought pattern, this can turn into an away from strategy and ultimately end up utilising copious amounts of energy that can be used more effectively elsewhere. Therefore, having a towards strategy and always focussing on what one wants plays a key role in removing negative emotions.

How can you manage your negative emotions?

Here at Mind Evolution Company, we use a number of strategies and techniques to help people manage negative emotions, such as 1-2-1 coaching packages, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Timeline Therapy® and Hypnotherapy. Get in touch at info@mindevolutioncompany.com to find out how we could help you.


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