Why You Shouldn’t Always Look For The Silver Lining

Why You Shouldn’t Always Look For The Silver Lining

Finding the silver lining in rough situations can help you keep your head up. But according to a 2016 study, it can also be detrimental to your overall well-being. It all depends on the situation.

Photo by Val Wroblewski.

The study, published in Psychological Science, suggests that “cognitive reappraisal”, or looking for the bright side of unfortunate events, isn’t always a healthy way to cope. The researchers found that looking for the silver lining was only considered beneficial when the situation was out of someone’s control, like bad weather or a flat tire. For situations where you have control, the researchers recommend taking a different approach. Dr Peter Koval, one of the study’s co-authors, explains:

Our results caution against a ‘one strategy fits all’ approach, which may be tempting to recommend based on many previous findings regarding reappraisal as a strategy for regulating emotion. Simply using any given emotion regulation strategy more (or less) in all situations may not lead to the best outcomes — instead, contextually-appropriate emotion regulation may be healthier.

Basically, it’s beneficial to feel a little bad because of a negative event you caused or had direct control over. Without those negative emotions, you won’t learn from it and adapt so it doesn’t happen again. Seeing the silver lining is a good thing, but don’t let it blind you. Negative emotions are a great motivator.

The Wisdom to Know the Difference: Strategy-Situation Fit in Emotion Regulation in Daily Life Is Associated With Well-Being [Psychological Science via Greater Good]