If you have been feeling down lately, recognize that it is not just you that is feeling sad, but also the world. According to a new study by Gallup that surveyed the emotions of 154,000 people in more than 145 countries, our Negative Experiences Index — an average of people’s reported physical pain, sadness, and anger, worry, stress — is the highest it has been since 2006.
The world is feeling down
What’s making us blue? The study does not go into the reasons behind the rising tide of negative emotions but suggests that worldwide “turmoil” could account for it. In the United States, in particular, stress is what is on many Americans’ minds. They were the second-most likely to say they had experience stress the previous day with 49% of the population reporting it, a number that only ranks above the most stressed country: Greece.
Positive emotions are also on the decline. Less than half of people worldwide — 46% — said did something interesting or learned something new in 2017, a number that is lower than it was in the past few years. For Americans, this rise in negative emotions could be due to the rise in anxiety since 2017. A recent American Psychiatric Association poll suggests that economic and political anxiety could be at the root of the downturn in emotions. Americans said they were more anxious today than they were at the same time last year, citing worries about keeping themselves safe, keeping their families safe, bills, and the impact of politics on their life as answers.
To float on top of a sea of bad emotions without getting pulled under, you need to honor your negative emotions as valid without wallowing in them. And then you need to celebrate your positive emotions without discounting them. Our brains can get easily trained to focus on mistakes and bad experiences, overlooking the positive. To retrain ourselves, try a practice of gratitude and list out tiny and big moments that made you feel good. That way, you teach yourself to notice the interesting world around you and can go to bed each night on a high note.