According to a study, saying these phrases helps foster positive feelings and attitudes that are very helpful for people with depression.
Showing support when a person is upset about something they’ve experienced can actually help foster their positive feelings , recent research shows.
Simply saying “I understand why you feel this way” makes a difference, according to researchers at Ohio State University who explored positive and negative emotions in more than 300 students.
Three experiments evaluated the effects of both supportive and critical (validating or invalidating) comments on what clinicians call positive and negative affect.
Positive affect refers to emotions and expressions that foster curiosity, connection, and flexible thinking. Negative affect creates feelings of mistrust, fear, or sadness.
Students completed questionnaires on positive and negative affect at the beginning and end of the study. They also reported their general mood during the experiments.
They were asked to think and write for five minutes about a time when they felt intense anger, and then to describe those feelings out loud.
The researchers then validated or invalidated their angry feelings with phrases such as “Of course this would make you angry”, or “Why does this make you so angry?
When they thought or wrote about being angry, they all experienced a reduction in positive affect. The mood of those whose feelings were validated returned to normal. Those who were not validated did not recover while talking to the researchers, and their mood generally worsened.
No significant difference was found in the negative emotions of the participants. This points to the value of protecting positivity, noted senior author Jennifer Cheavens, a professor of psychology.
We spend so much time thinking about how to remedy negative emotions, but we don’t spend as much time thinking about helping people harness and nurture positive emotions, he noted in a university news release.
“It is really important to help people with their depression, anxiety and fear, but it is also important to help people connect with curiosity, love, flexibility and optimism. People can feel sad or overwhelmed, and also hopeful or curious, in the same period in general. “
The researchers plan to apply the results in therapy, but the findings are also valuable for relationships, Cheavens said.
Validation protects people’s affections so they can continue to be curious in interpersonal interactions and therapy, he said.
“Adding validation to therapy helps people feel understood, and when we feel understood we can get feedback on how we might change too. But it’s not exclusively clinical: often the very ways that therapy is improved are ways to improve nurturing, friendship and romantic relationships. “