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The secret to happiness? Get better at feeling sad

By Helen Russell

09 Jan 2021 · 3 min read

Sitting in a corner sobbing may not be everyone’s idea of a great start to the year, but learning how to feel your sad emotions could be the key to a happier 2021. People who cry typically experience fewer “negative aggressive feelings”, such as rage and disgust, than people who don’t, according to research from the University of Kassel in Germany in 2009. Similarly, a 2010 study from Indiana University Bloomington found that American footballers who cried reported higher levels of self-esteem, and were less concerned about peer pressure than their non-crying counterparts.

“We now know that crying is something all humans are programmed to do, and that tears serve a purpose,” says Ad Vingerhoets, an academic known as the “tear professor” from Tilburg University in the Netherlands. “Cortisol levels decrease in those who cry, since expressing sadness soothes us.” This is because sadness has a function. In numerous studies since the 1980s, researchers from the University of New South Wales have found that accepting and allowing for temporary sadness helps improve attention to detail, increases perseverance, promotes generosity and makes us more grateful for what we’ve got.

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