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Pay attention to the physiological signs of your emotional state.   Here are some physiological/physical feelings we may experience for the four main emotions of happy, sad, angry and fearful.

    • Happy:  Is often associated with a swelling feeling in chest.  The muscles in the body are relaxed.  There may be a sensation of buoyancy or lightness, similar to standing underwater. 
    • Sad: Is often associated with heaviness in chest, arms and legs. There may be tightness in the throat and eyes.  Face muscles may cause the eyelids to be knitted, lids lowered, and corners of mouth to turn downward.
    • Anger: Is typically associated with increased muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, arms, and legs.  Heart rate usually increases. There will be tension in the face muscles and the eyebrows will often become scrunched and the teeth/ jaw line will become clenched.
    • Fear: May cause one of two things.  Either increased muscle tension (stiffness, stunned, can't move) or muscles become weak/ jello/rubbery.  The heart will race and the person may become jumpy or jittery.  The person may feel as if there are butterflies in the stomach.  Very often if a person is fearful, the eyebrows will be raised and the eyes will be wide open, trying to take everything in.  (The potential experience of incresed muscle tension and an increased heart rate, which is similar to anger, may be the reason we can mistake our feelings of fear for anger sometimes). 

Know the situation and circumstances around your emotions. 

                 Certain events are typically associated with particular emotions (ie. A death usually results in sadness).  However, it's not just that black and white.  We must take into consideration, not only the event, but what we wanted, believed and expected to happen.  For example, what we want to happen will play a strong role as to how we feel about something.  If our loved one was battling cancer and was suffering a very slow and painful death, than we might feel relief when this person passes away.  We might feel happy if our friend who we asked out to dinner turns us down if we really didn't want to go in the first place (rather save money and stay home on the couch).  If we believed or expected our friend would've said no to dinner, but then said yes, we may be annoyed because now we got ourselves in a predicament since we really didn't want to go.

 

  We often have a mixture or a blend of emotions.

                  When an event in our lives has multiple consequences (which they usually do)  it may cause us to feel different emotions, and ultimately confused.  It may have multiple affects on our lives, or it may affect us differently than our friends or loved ones.  Consequently, we have a mixture of emotions.  Although this may seem confusing or frustrating and may make deciding what to do or how to behave difficult, we can cope better if we understand where the emotions are stemming from and why.

    • It may have multiple consequences on ourselves.  One event can affect us in so many different ways.  For example, moving from a house we lived in for a long time, may put us in a better neighborhood, so we feel happy.  But it is going to put us in a twenty-year mortgage with big monthly payments, so it may also make us feel fearful.  We have a ton of packing to do and not enough time, so it may make us feel anxious too.  We know we will be leaving behind a house we grew up in, so it may also make us sad. 
    • Different consequences for different people: An event in our lives never solely affects just us.  It can often affect many people in our lives.  What might be good for us, may not be good for others.  If an event affects a friend or family member in a different way than us, then we may feel our emotions, plus the emotions of our loved ones (through empathy).  Maybe an event in our lives, such as getting a raise at work has multiple consequences: it makes you happy because you were recognized and now are making more money.  On the flip side it makes you feel bad because your friend at work helped you a lot and he received nothing. 

Exercises to undertanding our own emotions better

Food for thought