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Study: Sadness fogs your brain, makes routine decisions more difficult

Mentally and physically, sadness and depression can put your total package in a rut – so what does this mean for your career?

sadness depression mental health

Why they call it the blues

We’ve all been there: you had a bad day at work, maybe an argument with your spouse or significant other and the next thing you know you have the mental capacity of a bowl of Jell-O. You can’t concentrate. You feel lethargic. Certainly those aren’t the qualities needed to move you or your business forward.

A recent study confirms what a lot of us probably already suspected: sadness fogs your brain and makes even the most routine decisions more difficult! And that doesn’t even take into account the physical smack-down we’re feel when depressed or sad. Mentally and physically, sadness and depression can put your total package in a rut.


Sadness colors the thought process

The study, which had participants view upbeat happy films (Tangled) and also depressing melodrama (The Bridge) sought to tie emotional responses to the decision-making process. The results were hardly surprising. Try sitting through Schindler’s List and then attempt a love-letter to that special someone. According to Mary Jane Duque, who chaired the study at Batangas State University, Philippines,

“…Along with a negative mood, people’s perceptions, thoughts, and judgments are often distorted, interfering with people’s ability to process information while positive-affect condition showed less confusion among the decision makers having more early information processing in making decisions.”

The mind’s happy meal

The 85 participants (47 females and 28 males) were all first-year college students. The study underscored the effect of the brain’s feel-good chemical Dopamine that is produced in a variety of positive environments; whether it’s working out, making love or in this case watching a happy film. Simply put, feeling good impacts the decision-making process relative to the time consumed in making decisions.

The happy participant is “turned on” so to speak and can process information quicker and more succinctly when it comes to decision-making. Which is why I always watch the Disney film “Frozen” before doing anything of extreme importance.

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Conversely, feeling depressed deprives the brain of serotonin, which impacts our overall feeling of well-being. Depression and loneliness appear when serotonin is absent.

Just the beginning

In the bigger scheme of things, the BSU study is just scratching the surface in terms of what motivates us and how we perform because of it. Whether its business, or just cleaning the house, feeling good about ourselves and what we do is always a good indicator of positive results.


Written By

Nearly three decades living and working all over the world as a radio and television broadcast journalist in the United States Air Force, Staff Writer, Gary Picariello is now retired from the military and is focused on his writing career.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nico Narvacan

    November 11, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    Hi Gary! This study is pretty amazing! Continue featuring studies like this specially that, it was written and carried out in the Philippines were I am from. Thank you for your comprehensive analysis if the study. Kudos and more power! A great addition to knowledge that foster understanding and awareness.

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