If you’re feeling down, one of the best ways to prevent more distress is to accept your emotions. Fighting your sadness may make things even worse, according to a new study.

While it may seem like a no brainer that calmly accepting your negative emotions can make you feel better, researchers from the University of California Berkeley conducted an experiment to test the belief.

“We found that people who habitually accept their negative emotions experience fewer negative emotions, which adds up to better psychological health,” study author Iris Mauss, an associate professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, said in a post on the university's website.

In the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Mauss and her colleagues conducted three different experiments to analyze the link between emotional acceptance and psychological health.

The first experiment involved a survey of about 1,000 adults who explained how they felt about statements, such as “I tell myself I shouldn’t be feeling the way that I’m feeling.” Participants who habitually accepted their negative emotions showed higher levels of well-being than those who were less accepting, survey results showed. 

Next, about 150 participants were involved in a mock job application process. After two minutes of preparation time, the participants delivered a three-minute videotaped speech to a panel of judges in the laboratory. They were then asked to rate their own emotions about the situation. As the researchers expected, the group who tended to avoid negative feelings said they were more distressed than those who accepted their emotions.

Last, more than 200 adults journaled for two weeks about what they felt were their most difficult recent experiences. About six months later, the participants took surveys about their psychological health. The surveys revealed that those who usually avoided negative emotions self-reported more feelings of sadness and resentment compared to their accepting peers.

“Maybe if you have an accepting attitude toward negative emotions, you’re not giving them as much attention,” Mauss said in the post. “And perhaps, if you’re constantly judging your emotions, the negativity can pile up.”

The authors acknowledged that having a more affluent lifestyle may make it easier to have an accepting attitude. Therefore, they factored in socio-economic status and major life stressors that could possibly distort the results.

In the future, Mauss and her colleagues plan to study how culture and upbringing play a role in the way people react to their emotions.

“By asking parents about their attitudes about their children’s emotions, we may be able to predict how their children feel about their emotions, and how that might affect their children’s mental health,” she said.