Blog

Part 2 - What are the Effects of Negative Emotions?

Part 2 - What are the Effects of Negative Emotions?

Juan Esterhuizen Transformation Psychologist & Life Coach

Part 2 - What are the Effects of Negative Emotions?

While understanding that negative emotions are a healthy part of life is important, there is a downside to giving them too much free reign. If you spend too much time dwelling on negative emotions and the situations that might have caused them, you could go into a spiral of rumination. Be aware not to create a tendency to keep thinking, replaying, or obsessing over negative emotional situations and experiences. In this spiral of negative thinking, you will increasingly start to feel worse and worse, the result of which could have several detrimental effects on your mental and physical well-being. The problem with rumination is that it increases your brain’s stress response circuit, causing a flood of stress hormones and there is considerable scientific evidence that this is a driver for a variety of physical and psychological diseases. Research has also linked the tendency to ruminate to several harmful coping behaviours, such as overeating, smoking, and alcohol consumption, alongside physical health consequences including insomnia, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and clinical anxiety and depression.

It has been found people who indulged in prolonged rumination after a negative emotional experience took longer to recover from the physiological impact of the experience.

 
How do Emotions Impact Our Health and Wellbeing?

It is not the negative emotions that directly impact our health and well-being, but how we react and process them when we experience them that counts.

Staying stuck on negative emotions increases our body’s production of stress hormones which in turn depletes our cognitive ability to problem-solve proactively. Stress hormones also damage our immune defences, making us more susceptible to disease. Chronic stress has also been linked to a shorter lifespan. 

Anger has been shown to have the biggest impact on our health and well-being of all the negative emotions, especially where it is poorly managed. Studies have connected anger to various health concerns including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and digestive disorders 

Experiencing regular bouts of anger has been linked to increased levels of cortisol, which were implicated in decreased immune system efficiency. Research has revealed that chronically angry people are more likely to have colds, the flu, asthmatic symptoms, and skin diseases such as rashes compared to non-chronically angry people.

A newer area of research has explored the impact of negative emotions on our sensory perceptions and experiences. Researchers Kelley and Schmeichel explored the impact of fear and anger on our sense of touch. Participants were asked to recall, relive, and write up a personal experience that elicited a fear response or an angry response. The researchers then administered a two-point discrimination procedure where the participant’s hand was hidden from their view and they were poked in their index finger with either one point or two points. Participants then had to decide whether they were poked by one or two instruments. Higher inaccuracy suggests a diminished sense of touch. Participants who were asked to recall a fear response consistently demonstrated a reduced sense of touch when distinguishing between one or two points of contact.

Research into the impact of negative emotions on our sensory perceptions is still emerging, but it could provide some great insights into why we might hold on to negative emotions and how they affect our memory of negative situations.

 
Negative Emotions and Cancer

Some research has begun to look at the link between negative emotions and cancer. Again, in this area, most of the research has focused specifically on anger as a negative emotion and its link to cancer. Anger as an emotion is normal to feel, but as we have already seen from the research, it is how it is expressed - or not expressed - that can cause problems. When anger is intense and prolonged, or on the flip side, repressed, it becomes what researchers refer to as unhealthy anger. 

Unhealthy anger in its repressed state has been linked to cancer. Studies have revealed that patients with cancer also presented extremely low anger scores when tested, which they felt suggested that the patients were repressing or suppressing their anger. The researchers suggested that this was evidence that repressed anger could be a precursor to the development of cancer. Other research seems to support this claim. In studies with women diagnosed with breast cancer, researchers report a statistically significant relationship between what they refer to as extreme repression of anger, and the diagnosis of breast cancer. Women who repressed their anger showed increased levels of serum Immunoglobulin A, which has been linked to some autoimmune diseases.

 
Benefits of Negative Emotions

It’s not all doom and gloom. When handled well, negative emotions can have proven benefits for our well-being, and far more research has been poured into exploring this aspect of negative emotions.

Below I have summarised some of the key research findings on how negative emotions can benefit you:

1. Sadness can help you pay more attention to detail

Where positive emotions signal that all is well in our immediate environment, negative emotions alert us that there are challenges or new stimuli that require our more focused attention. Sadness sends us the alert that something is not right and asks us to turn our attention to why this may be, what might be causing it, and what we need to do to fix it.

2. Anger can be a strong motivator to seek mediation

Anger is only followed by aggression in about ten percent of scenarios (Kassinove and Tafrate, 2002). Anger has been proven to encourage a person to seek out active behaviours to address scenarios or people they found problematic without having to resort to confrontation or physical acts.

Anger is a strong alert that encourages us to reflect on why someone might be behaving a certain way, and what we can do to restore peace.

3. Anxiety encourages new ways of approaching problems and challenges

When we feel anxious, we will try and do anything we can not to feel that way anymore. Anxiety is closely linked to our ‘fight or flight’ response, which drives the body to create energy quickly to prime it for action. When faced with dangerous situations, anxiety will take over and encourage us to seek solutions quickly to escape danger. 

4. Guilt can help you change negative behaviours

Guilt can be an exceptionally useful emotion. It is essentially our moral compass and when it goes off, it is normally a good indication that we may have behaved or said something hurtful to someone we care about or done something detrimental to ourselves or others. It is like our internal system for punishing ourselves when we have done something wrong. People who are more prone to experience feelings of guilt are less likely to steal, do drugs, or resort to violence.

5. Envy may motivate you to work harder

Jealousy is not always malicious. Most of the time it is what psychologists refer to as ‘benign envy’. Benign envy has been shown to encourage students to perform better on tests and in schoolwork, as seeing another student achieve a good grade made it more tangible for them to achieve better results as well. Next time you feel jealous because someone else has achieved a desired goal, try to see this as a good thing - it means the goal is achievable for you too.

Next Post: Can Negative Emotions Enhance Memory

Part 2 - What are the Effects of Negative Emotions?

Juan Esterhuizen Transformation Psychologist & Life Coach

Juan Esterhuizen Transformation Psychologist & Life Coach is a published psychologist, integrative life coach and stress and trauma release therapist with a practice in Caledon. Offering a range of exclusive in-person and online psychological counselling services, Juan is also available to travel to...

View Profile

What is Xplorio?

Xplorio is your local connection allowing you to find anything and everything about a town.

WATCH THE VIDEO: Welcome to Pringle Bay & Rooi Els!
Read More

Other Articles

Embrace Imperfection: Enjoy Life's Journey

Embrace Imperfection: Enjoy Life's Journey

We are not here to be perfect. We are here to experience and have fun in the process of discovery.

Why Hiring a Project Engineer is Essential

Why Hiring a Project Engineer is Essential

Moving to Overberg and building or remodelling a home? Understanding local authorities and bodies like the NHBRC can be challenging.

Why Makeovers Seldom Work - 3 Pointers to Ensure Change

Why Makeovers Seldom Work - 3 Pointers to Ensure Change

I have a guilty pleasure when I need to relax and give my mind a break.

Mastering Fear: Overcoming Self-Imposed Limitations

Mastering Fear: Overcoming Self-Imposed Limitations

Walking is proof that we mastered our fear of falling.

Trending Interior Colours to Transform Your Commercial Space

Trending Interior Colours to Transform Your Commercial Space

Looking to infuse warmth and charm into your commercial space? Look no further than embracing trending colours for interiors.

Enjoy Kudu Biltong from Jan Biltong!

Enjoy Kudu Biltong from Jan Biltong!

Kudu Biltong from Jan Biltong is made from the finest cuts of meat, spiced with an exceptional blend of spices, and dried the traditional way.

See All Articles