All about Feelings
Feelings and emotions are two words often used interchangeably. They generally mean the same thing, however, feelings and emotions can differ. For instance, feeling love for your child can cause the emotion of fear if he or she is in danger. A mood is also separate from a feeling or emotion. Whereas emotions are short-lived, a mood lasts longer. The cause of a mood is not always easy to detect, as you might feel down for a few days and not know why.
Psychology researchers cite six basic emotions that are universal to all humans. They include happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, and anger. Other psychologists have added embarrassment, pride, excitement, and satisfaction to this list. It’s also possible to experience more than one emotion at a time, such as feeling happy and excited simultaneously.
There are three main ways we encounter an emotion. First, we experience the feeling. Second, our body reacts to it. Last, we express the feeling through our behavior. Therefore, if you were angry, you’d interpret the emotion as anger. Perhaps, your body would tense up or your heart would begin to pace, and then you might lose your temper and begin to shout. These would all be examples of how you might react to the emotion called anger.
Emotions cause both physical and physiological reactions, which are regulated by the nervous system. These reactions affect body responses that we can’t control, like digestion and blood flow. The nervous system also monitors our “fight-or-flight” response to stress, dangers, and threats. More noticeable examples of the physical effects of feelings might be sweaty palms, stomach pains, increased heartbeat, muscle tension, etc.
There are some universal expressions of feelings, like smiling. Others will differ according to culture, tradition and custom. When we understand our emotions and seek to increase our emotional intelligence, we can have some control over our behavioral reactions. Exploring our thinking and paying attention to what our bodies are doing when we feel emotions helps us gain insight into our behaviors. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques as well as a trained therapist or counselor can help you gain control over your reactivity.
The Importance of Feelings
Exploring your feelings can benefit both your body and behavior. For example, if you find that you often feel afraid, you may also discover that you regularly experience associated anxiety and physical symptoms of stress. Perhaps your heart is continually racing and your sleep is affected; these responses can have a long-term impact on your health. If you start to examine the root of your fear, you might find that your thoughts aren’t factual. Recognizing this faulty or irrational thought pattern is the first step in modifying it and ultimately feeling less anxious and afraid.
When our feelings are based on facts we can try to change our situation or goals to fit that reality. Perhaps, you’ve found a hobby that makes you feel happy and excited. You can seek to incorporate those skills into a career you might really enjoy.
Whether your feelings are fact-based or irrational, paying attention to them can provide clues about how to live healthy and how to achieve the life you desire. When you put a name to your feelings and begin to understand how they work, you create more space between something happening and your reaction to it. This space gives you an opportunity to choose your behavior and how you interact in your relationships. Momentarily stepping back from a situation also provides the choice to treat yourself in a healthy, self-respecting manner.
Tips for Managing Emotional Reactions
Controlling your reactions to emotion takes time and practice. The following ideas will help you learn how to regulate your reactivity:
Feelings affect everyone on a daily basis. Learning how to manage and understand your emotions will benefit your health, work, and relationships. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, as medical or mental health professionals have valuable knowledge about ways of coping with intense feelings. With the right motivation and practice, you can learn to change your reactions to emotions rather than letting them control you.