more about happiness…January 15, 2011
“What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
I wish I had exercised! I barely broke a sweat until I got to college and discovered aerobics. I also wish I had known that dwelling on things usually just makes them worse. I used to indulge my dark side, especially as a teenager, reading lots of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton, that kind of thing. There is now good evidence that rumination, or “the chronic, passive focus on one’s negative emotions” as defined by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema at Yale, contributes to depression by interfering with problem-solving. Most people think that negative emotions have to be expressed in order to heal, especially emotions surrounding loss. The opposite is actually true. While working on my book, I discovered that bereaved people who are able to damp down their negative emotions, known as “repressive coping,” actually have much better outcomes physically and mentally than people who express their anger and sadness. (So much for catharsis!) Those who are able to conjure happy memories or smile and laugh when talking about the deceased fare even better.”