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8 Little Ways Sadness Can Be a Good Thing: BELLA DEPAULO, PH.D


8 Little Ways Sadness Can Be a Good Thing: BELLA DEPAULO, PH.D

photo, "Sadness and Dreams," by D. Sharon Pruitt. Click on photo for link.

photo, “Sadness and Dreams,” by D. Sharon Pruitt. Click on photo for link.

While I don’t completely agree with her take on happiness and marriage (although she does have a point if you look at it in the right way…i.e. just marrying for the sake of being happier could be a problem!), I loved this reminder from Ph.D. Bella DePaulo that 100% happiness in life may not be all it’s cracked up to be, even if it did exist.  (the obvious gospel take on it being “Opposition in All Things,” no?

While we don’t want to wallow in sadness and we want to rejoice when it passes, what do we learn from it?  There have been loads of talks and books on this topic, but I love this new, slightly more scientific and clinical take on it that enhances well what we’ve already heard.  This is DePaulo’s take on an article from leading mood researcher Joseph Forgas:

So when I found an alert in my inbox about a just published article reviewing the benefits of being in a bad mood, I had to read it and pass along what I learned. The author, leading mood researcher Joseph Forgas, is not defending intense and sustained bad feelings, just the mild, temporary unpleasant feelings that we all describe as being in a bad mood.

Here are 8 ways a bit of a bad mood can be a good thing:

  1. People in bad moods have better memories. In one study, for example, they remembered more details about the inside of a shop than did people in good moods. People in bad moods are also less likely to get tricked by misleading questions.
  2. People in bad moods are more accurate in their judgments. Social scientists have had a field day documenting judgmental biases; now mood researchers are showing that people in bad moods are less susceptible to those biases than people in good moods.
  3. People in bad moods are less gullible. For example, they are less likely to believe urban myths and they are also better at detecting deception.
  4. People in bad moods are less likely to stereotype other people, and they are less likely to act on negative stereotypical judgments.
  5. There are motivational benefits to bad moods. For example, people in bad moods persevere longer at difficult tasks.
  6. A bad mood can have its interpersonal advantages (though it is not always beneficial). For example, people in bad moods ask for things in more polite ways.
  7. People in bad moods are more fair and more just. Allowed to allocate a resource however they want, for example, they are more likely than people in a good mood to distribute the resource in a fair way rather than hogging it for themselves.
  8. People in bad moods are more persuasive – they come up with better arguments.

Reference: Forgas, J. P. (2013). Don’t worry, be sad! On the cognitive, motivational, and interpersonal benefits of negative mood.Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22, 225-232.


Author: pickleclub1971

I'm a single mom of 2: a Southern CA native, who transplanted to Utah 4 years ago. I have one 18 year old who is off to the Ivy League, and one 14 year old who is in high school. I served an LDS Mission to Southern France and I’ve also lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Idaho, Northern Arizona, and New Hampshire. I love 80’s music, classical music, choral music, playing the piano, singing, speaking what French I still remember, and talking about history and music with whomever will listen. I love that my kids are better at math than I was at their age. (But they still get frequent historical references from me…anyone familiar with Ducky from NCIS? He’s that kind of medical examiner, I’m that kind of mom.) My kids also think I know all the lyrics to all the songs from the 80’s, mainly because I’m good at making them up and faking it when I don’t know. Sometimes they catch me. I’m currently disabled with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I want to get better (of course) and be an advocate for trauma survivors and others with mental illnesses. I like people in general. I suffer from the delusion that I can make everyone my friend, but of course that isn’t possible: but I still believe that the world can be a better place.

5 thoughts on “8 Little Ways Sadness Can Be a Good Thing: BELLA DEPAULO, PH.D

  1. The people that I’ve dealt with who get in a bad mood are not more likely to persevere, but more likely to give up. Not more polite, but more rude. Not more fair, but more likely to hog it for themselves. They have less accurate memories of the facts and are more likely to skew things in a negative manner. And they certainly don’t come up with better arguments! I’m not talking about “intense and sustained bad feelings” because once their good mood returns they are absolutely wonderful to be around. If it’s strong enough to be called a “bad mood” I don’t see how it can also be “mild, temporary unpleasantness.” Mild temporary unpleasantness is needing a nap or a meal. A bad mood is feeling agitated about something. I haven’t seen much of anything positive coming out of the people I know who get agitated enough to call it a “bad mood” when they are actually in a “bad mood.” And yet, they can lovely, positive, polite, fair, persevering people when they are in a good mood.

  2. I have been in a bad mood since the author of this blog moved out of Provo ;>) The neighborhood is just not the same! But seriously, this is interesting stuff, I recall hearing a study of couples in Germany where one partner had chronic back pain. In the cases with the healthy partner showed a lot of concern over the pain, the pain was worse. Where the healthy partner was more indifferent to the pain, it was not so bad. I always thought “don’t worry be happy” was bunk and this article goes to prove that haha.

  3. You know, that makes perfect sense.

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