Being unhappy isn’t pleasant. For most of us, when we feel unhappy, we naturally want to push those thoughts away or move on to something positive.
But according to Mo Gawdat, you should do just the opposite: Confront those feelings when they come your way, says Gawdat, an engineer and chief business officer of Alphabet’s moonshot lab who authored the book, Solve for Happy.
“When something triggers your unhappiness, visit it,” Gawdat said at a recent workshop in New York City, according to Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz. He compared it to thinking back to what you ate when you start to feel a stomach ache, but as Lebowitz pointed out, it’s sometimes easier to recognize a physical illness than realize you’re feeling unhappy.
“Would you be able to pause frequently enough to recognize how you feel inside?“ Gawdat elaborated in a subsequent interview with BI. “Even if you don’t know how to fix it yet, recognize that, ‘I’m not feeling OK.’”
While Gawdat’s advice might sound uncomfortable, a new study backs him up. Research published in the August issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General found that for some people, the secret to happiness is the ability to actually feel crummy sometimes.
The study surveyed 2,300 college-age students in the U.S., Brazil and China, asking them about emotions they’d like to feel more and less of, and which emotions they actually do feel. The students who reported greater life satisfaction and fewer depressive symptoms were those who actually felt whatever emotion seemed right to them at the time, even if that emotion was negative.
“Wanting to be happy or joyful all the time is not very realistic,” study author Maya Tamir, a psychology professor at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told HuffPost. “Never wanting to feel sadness or anger or fear is not realistic. If we are able to accept and even welcome the emotions that we have, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, we are likely to be happier and more satisfied.”
So the next time you’re feeling unhappy, try to meet it. Address the things that are bothering you, and then try your best to move on.