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.