Bored on your commute? Jealous of a high-flying colleague? Or lonely in your high-rise?

There is good news from Dr Tim Lomas, who says what we typically see as dark thoughts and feelings might actually lead us to happiness.

The University Of East London psychology lecturer has published The Positive Power Of Negative Emotions detailing why feelings we perceive as bad may have a valuable purpose that can help us become better, more content people.

The 37-year-old said: “Often we go through experiences that are unpleasant but when we are challenged and tested we might come out of it changed in ways that can be appreciated and valued.

“We may realise we are stronger than we thought or have a new set of priorities.”

His book brings together existing research on the theory – known as second wave positive psychology – alongside personal experiences from Tim’s life, including his time as a psychiatric nursing assistant.

Here he tells us how we can turn negative emotions to our advantage:


“Think of it like a psychological version of physical pain, which tells us when we are hurt and need to apply a bandage or take care.

“Sadness can cause us to withdraw from a person or activity and can be a way of protecting us from something that could be harmful.

“There is also a connection between sadness and compassion. If you feel sad about the state of the world or a situation use it to be motivated to reach out and do good.”


“It’s important to recognise that past a certain point this can become a serious condition that you should seek help for.

“But low level worries can be a warning signal about possible threats you face in the future. Act on them.

“If you have a job interview and are anxious about things going wrong, see it as an opportunity to mitigate that possibility.

“If you are worried about getting tongue tied, prepare things to say. If you are worried about being late, take precautions.”

The Positive Power Of Negative Emotions by Dr Tim Lomas


“The world is increasingly angry and it can be a particularly corrosive state to be in. But it can also be a pointer that some ethic or moral is being breached.

“Recognise why you are angry and the difference between feeling angry and actually being angry – which can be harmful to those around you.

“Take a positive step such as joining a Trade Union or protest group and channel your anger in a fulfilling way.

“The old adage of counting to 10 is always good and meditation or simply taking a few moments to sit and be aware of your breathe can take the heat off your anger and help provide you with useful information.”


“Don’t wallow. If you feel guilty about how you treated someone, you can’t go back in time. Instead try and have another interaction and treat them differently.

“If you didn’t buy a round at the pub, make sure you buy the first one next time.

“Guilt is a force that can help you develop and change into your best self and the person you want to be.”


“There are two types. Vicious envy, where you resent the other person and want to destroy them and emulative envy, where you admire them and want to get to where they are.

“If you see a peer doing better than you, focussing on them can lead to resentment.

“But if you focus on yourself and what you can do get to where they are, it can be a motivating force.

“If you envy things that could be impossible to attain, such as becoming fabulously wealthy, try to redirect that energy towards small acts of generosity or spending more time with loved ones, which will be more rewarding.”


“This is a funny one. There is so much in modern society to stop us being bored.

“If you are commuting you go on your smartphone every two minutes.

“But it an be valuable to let boredom be as it can lead to great insights. Rather than thinking you need to do something quickly to distract yourself, let yourself sit there and tell yourself it is worthwhile and you may find a great idea pops into your head.

“Our brains sometime need that chance to settle, without constant distractions, so we can learn.”


“The positive side of loneliness is solitude, when you value being alone rather than resenting it.

“It can be chance to do what you want without others around. Next time you are enjoying some solitude maybe write down why and what you are doing.

“Then next time you feel lonely you can read the list and try some of the things on it and get back to that place of solitude.”

The Positive Power Of Negative Emotions by Dr Tim Lomas is published by Piatkus ( Little Brown Book Group ), priced £13.99.

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