We’re often told emotions are unreliable and need to be controlled. However, emotions are our body’s built-in system to feel and make sense of the world around us. Although emotions can be impulsive and fast, they’re a good place to start to truly understand ourselves (1).
Why Emotions Are Important
Emotions are important for three reasons: (2)
- Emotions allow us to connect with others.
- It allows us to be aware of what can hurt us or not.
- Most importantly, emotions allow us to understand ourselves.
When we talk about emotions, it is usually about connecting with others or our gut feelings when something bad is about to happen. People don’t often talk about how our emotions allow us to understand ourselves better in our day to day lives. Emotions are thought of as irrational, useless and even unreliable to some. Because of old ideas of emotions, people put their feelings and emotions on the back burner and forget about them. When this happens, it boils over and it becomes harder to understand. Emotions are our mind’s way of telling us that something is up, whether it is “right” or not. I say “right” because emotions are all valid and there is no such thing as a wrong emotion. Emotions are one of the body’s tools to guide us through life and help us decide what to do next.
Why It’s Important to Feel and Listen Your Emotions
Your emotions don’t only impact your mental health.
Your emotions also heavily impact your physical health.
When you are anxious, your body reacts to tell you you are anxious.
An example would be muscle tightness and tension in the shoulders and neck area. This can indicate high levels of stress and anxiety. This can feel like you are sore from a workout at first but eventually leads to stiffness in those parts of the body.
According to Dr. John Sarno, repressed emotional issues can cause chronic pain as a side effect. (3)
When your mind realizes you don’t take emotional pain as a sign to change, it creates physical pain to make sure you get the message.
Sadly, we often believe these illnesses came out of nowhere when if fact our bodies have been telling us all along.
Since we aren’t taught to listen to our emotions, we write them off as physical illnesses and leave them at that. Some physical illness examples include muscle pains, temporary blindness, and the inability to walk. (3)
In addition to causing illnesses, according to Dr. Hendel, ignoring and blocking your emotions can lead existing diseases to getting even worse. (4)
However, some emotions are better for the body than others. Happiness, hopefulness, and contentment can help reduce the rise of different types of disease. (5)
Where Are Emotions Felt in Your Body
Emotions are felt all over your body. Since we go through so many emotions and feelings in a day, it’s easy to disregard how our body changes as our feelings change. One of the fiercest and biggest emotions we never forget is anger. When you get angry, you feel hot in your upper body area, especially your head and chest. A feeling you may be as aware of is sadness. When you feel sad, your body can be colder than usual, especially in the arms and legs. A study done in 2014 by a group of researchers showed how our emotions affect our body part’s temperature. Depending on the emotion you feel, certain parts of the body get warmer or cooler. Here you can see the emotions they examined below (6)
Image Source: Greatist
Note: This emotional body map is not one size fits all. Our bodies are complicated and hard to understand already. On top of that, we all feel emotions differently. So this body map acts as a basic guide to provide hints to help you figure out your feelings. For example, fear and anxiety bring out similar responses with your heart rate racing, palms getting sweaty, and maybe even the urge to throw up. With this chart, you get a deeper look into other physical symptoms to help pinpoint which emotion you’re feeling.
Emotions You May Want to Address
Emotions provide us hints about who we feel throughout our day-to-day lives. Though, there are some emotions we feel aren’t as welcomed as others. They come up often, but we don’t care to deal with them; we usually brush them aside. If your mind feels chaotic or feels like something is missing, you may be experiencing the following emotions:
So how do you go from feeling angry, scared, anxious, or depressed to fulfilled, content, and confident?
How to Understand and Make Sense of Your Emotions
Your mind is trying to tell you there are some things not quite “right.” When those “unwelcomed” feelings come up, take the time to ask yourself the following questions (7):
- Where in my body do I feel these emotions?
- Why do I feel this way?
- What’s causing these feelings?
- Is there something I want/need to change?
- What can I do to alleviate these emotions?
Write down any emotions you feel and any reasons you may be feeling this way. If you can’t concentrate, don’t beat yourself up for it. When they pop up throughout the day, make a note of it on your phone. Most importantly, be curious and kind to yourself. It’s easy to get frustrated because emotions are hard to decode, but it’s important to remember and permit yourself to feel your feelings.
How to Understand Your Emotions and Do Something About it Through Coaching
Understanding your emotions is a huge first step from feeling anxious or feeling something is “wrong” to a content and fulfilling life. My clients often feel like something is “wrong” but can’t pinpoint the cause. Frustration is a common response when you try to work through emotions by yourself. As a result, many of my clients asked for guidance. With my clients, we work together as slowly as needed to understand their emotions. Then we figure out the following steps to create the life they want—a life with better focus and feelings of fulfillment. If you feel anxious, stressed out, or like something’s “wrong,” and you want help, work with a coach. A coach helps you by providing perspective on your feelings and how to address them. Not only do they provide emotional support, but also help you create a plan to get you from feeling like you are living in space from chaos to content. Through the SHiFT™ method, we look at all parts of your life. From your mental to physical health as well as your environment, we help you live a better and more focused life. I ask not to wait until your emotions show up as physical pain to think about making changes in your life. It’s never too late, but it doesn’t hurt to get started earlier. If you’re ready to take control of your life, let’s get started.
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