On the benefits of optimism


In a nutshell, don’t throw your phone through the window next time you’re angry:

For many years, psychologists, following Freud, thought that people simply needed to express their anger and anxiety – blow off some steam – to be happier. But this is wrong. Researchers, for example, asked people who were mildly-to-moderately depressed to dwell on their depression for eight minutes. The researchers found that such ruminating caused the depressed people to become significantly more depressed and for a longer period of time than people who simply distracted themselves thinking about something else. Senseless suffering – suffering that lacks a silver lining – viciously leads to more depression.

Counter-intuitively, another study found that facing down adversity by venting – hitting a punching bag or being vengeful toward someone who makes you angry – actually leads to people feeling far worse, not better. Actually, doing nothing at all in response to anger was more effective than expressing the anger in these destructive ways.

A captivating paper by Emily Esfahani Smith for The Atlantic.