Allowing ourselves to feel our emotions can improve our health and well-being.

We’re in the midst of a nerve-wracking pandemic, but tearjerkers are hot. In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten “best sad movie lists” from Esquire, GQ, POPSUGAR, Thrillist, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. I find it fascinating that people love to watch movies to feel something they don’t allow themselves to feel in their everyday lives. Or perhaps right now they want evidence that things could always be worse.

But do we really need sad movies, especially right now? There’s already so much grief, sorrow and unhappiness in our lives — not to mention negativity and anger in human interactions. The latter helps explain the popularity of the enduring adage “laughter is the best medicine.”

Weighty research on mind-body medicine proves this maxim is true. “Stress relief from laughter is no joke,” says Mayo Clinic. But the reverse is true too. It turns out embracing negative emotions — from sadness to anxiety to distress — is also good medicine, say leading researchers such as Brené Brown and David Barlow.

How? When we face difficult issues in life, and painful emotions that feel threatening, we must come up with solutions. How we cope when things go wrong is developmentally important. Brown praises vulnerability, struggle and adversity, and notes that these emotions help us learn to live wholeheartedly and develop hope.

Read more in Bija’s article in AGEIST Magazine.