Real Life

Why Being In A Bad Mood Is Actually Good For You

Modern society places a high premium on the cult of happiness.

We're forever in search of it, trying to find better ways to reach this elusive promised land of fulfilment and joy.

But what if we've been looking at it the wrong way all along?

In an eye-opening new piece for The Conversation, scientia professor of psychology Joseph Paul Forgas argues that our quest for happiness is illusionary - and what's more, being in a bad mood carries important evolutionary benefits.

While being careful to note that he is not referring to intense or enduring states of sadness such as depression, Forgas says mild and temporary spells of sadness serve several adaptive purposes.

"Homo sapiens is a very moody species," Forgas, who is based at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, writes.

"Even though sadness and bad moods have always been part of the human experience, we now live in an age that ignores or devalues these feelings."

Bad moods help us "to cope with everyday challenges and difficult situations," he says. "They also act as a social signal that communicates disengagement, withdrawal from competition and provides a protective cover."

"When we appear sad or in a bad mood, people often are concerned and are inclined to help," he adds.

Pauline was on a new health kick of truly filty moods

So what exactly are the psychological advantages of being (temporarily) moody?

By dissecting research on the topic, Forgas shows that bad moods act as "automatic, unconscious alarm signals" that sharpen the mind and help us to focus in difficult situations - as opposed to feelings of familiarity or contentment, where we're less attentive.

This results in a host of perks, including improved memory and a reduction in the impact of false or irrelevant information.

Bad moods also increase our scepticism, creating more accurate judgement, including the ability to better detect other people's deception.

A mild state of sadness also means we're better communicators who carry an increased sense of fairness in our dealings with others.

All this comes via the more attentive and detailed thinking style promoted by bad moods.

"These findings suggest the unrelenting pursuit of happiness may often be self-defeating," says Forgas. "A more balanced assessment of the costs and benefits of good and bad moods is long overdue."

Read More: This Five-Second Happiness Habit Will Enhance Your Relationship With Colleagues, Friends and Lovers

Read More: Fail-Safe Happiness Rituals For An Instant Mood Lift

Grazia magazine cover