Sadness lasts longer than other emotions, says study

If you’ve ever thought that the bad times in life last longer than the good, you’re right. Belgian researchers have confirmed that sadness lasts longer than other emotions, from happiness to ‘let the ground open up and swallow me now please’ humiliation.

Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen from the University of Leuven surveyed 233 students about recent episodes of strong emotion and how long they lasted, as well as the strategies they used for dealing with them. They found that across the board, the participants reported sadness as lasting up to 240 times longer than 26 other feelings, including shame, surprise, fear, disgust, boredom, irritation and relief.

Boredom was one of the shortest, only feeling like it goes on forever, while guilt lasts longer than shame, and anxiety hangs around longer than fear. But sadness has them all beat. The researchers concluded that we recover much more quickly from feelings attached to events that don’t carry much importance, like crashing into a stranger in the street and feeling stupid, than from ones that have a longer-lasting impact on our lives, like a break-up. Which isn’t that surprising.

But the key factor in extending emotions seems to be (as any good CBT therapist will tell you), our tendency to turn things over in our minds, making our attachment to them stronger. ‘Emotions associated with high levels of rumination will last longest,’ Verduyn says, which I suppose means that if we want to feel happier, we should probably be thinking about happiness a LOT.

Image via hannah k’s Flickr.

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