Emotions are often felt spontaneously in the face of a situation and linked to physical sensations, such as a change in heart rate or body temperature, or an overdose of energy.  We experience emotions every day. Some stay with us long and intensely, while others may go unnoticed or reappear several days after an event. Whichever the case, these are your best allies in giving you clues as to what’s going well or badly in your life, and what makes you feel good or not. 

WHAT ARE EMOTIONS FOR? 

Six basic emotions are generally recognized: joy, anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and surprise.  These can be felt at different intensities or in a variety of other emotions. They are the messengers of your needs and enable you to adapt to your environment.

Discover the links between emotions and their functions:  

  • Anger can signal the need to assert yourself in response to a need that is not being met or a boundary that is not being respected. 
  • Sadness can indicate lack of comfort and the need for it when faced with loss. Expressing it can help you accept your loss and move on. 
  • Fear can indicate a need for protection, to distance yourself from a situation, or for reassurance.  
  • Joy can be a sign of wonder and a need to share news or events. 
  • Surprise can make you react quickly to a situation to help you adapt. 
  • Disgust can be a sign of discomfort with a situation or environment, to distance yourself from it or denounce it.  

Remember! Depressed emotions, such as sadness, are not necessarily a bad thing. They indicate a need that you need to explore, express and fulfill.

KEEPING A JOURNAL: WHY NOT! 

A diary can be a useful tool to get to know yourself, exploring your emotions and behaviours, and better responding to your needs. The idea is to describe your emotions without restraint on a daily basis. Putting them into words will enable you to express them more easily, to see if they recur, and to perceive which ones are more intense in certain areas of your life.

An interesting variation of the emotional diary is the gratitude diary in wich you can regularly writing down the things you appreciate in life, no matter how small. It could be as simple as having slept well, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, or running into a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.  

Many applications you can download on your phone offer journaling features. Take a look at this list of applications.

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR EMOTIONS  

Emotions are generally fleeting and do not always indicate an urgent need to act. In fact, it’s advisable to take the time to feel the emotion and identify it before taking action. Here’s what you can do.   

Feel it

To feel an emotion is to give yourself the right to experience it, while respecting your personal limits and those of others. Some people tend to repress their emotions or have an emotional overflow and explode. In any case, simply breathing slowly when you’re experiencing an emotion will help you connect with it, either to soften its intensity or to help you feel it.  Other interesting strategies for connecting to your feelings include writing, art, music, yoga, meditation, sports, walking, and so on.

Identify it

What do I feel and why? If the same emotion comes up again and again in similar situations, or if it increases in intensity, it’s probably trying to make you understand something important. It’s not always easy to identify what’s going on inside you, but putting words to what you’re experiencing can help you understand the message your emotion is trying to convey. You can do this by reflecting on the situation, taking a step back once the emotion has passed.

Take action

What to do? Identifying your emotion and the need associated with the previous step will go a long way to answering this question. Depending on the situation, there are different ways of taking action. For example, when faced with a recurring emotion, you can address the situation with the person(s) concerned, make a change in your schedule or lifestyle, end a friendship or romantic relationship, let go of a secret by talking to someone you trust, or ask for help.

IS THERE A LINK BETWEEN MY THOUGHTS AND MY EMOTIONS? 

Yes, thoughts can be positive or negative and have the potential to generate emotions and vice versa. In short, what you think influences how you feel, and the reverse is also true! Where you need to be careful is that thoughts are not always a reflection of reality and can be the result of distortion linked to experiences. That’s right! Our brains sometimes lie to us! If your thoughts are negative, rigid, or exaggerated, ask yourself the following questions:   

  1. Does this thought bring me closer or further away from what’s important to me?  
  1. Does this thought hinder or provoke my actions?   
  1. Does this thought lead me to avoid certain people or situations, or to enter into conflict with them? 

In addition, you can watch these two videos in which we talk about emotion in a funny and touching way.

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References

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Harris, R. (2021) Le piège du bonheur. Les Éditions de l’Homme. 272 pages.

Lumino Santé. (2023) Les bienfaits d’un journal de gratitude et comment s’y mettre

Tel-Jeunes. (2023) Émotions

Thot Cursus. (2020) Déposer ses émotions sur le papier

Université Laval. Comprendre et réguler ses émotions

Credits

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Illustrations : Mario Fontaine

Contribution to the article : Isabelle Queval, psychologist

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