What are healthy emotions? Do you know the difference? Why is it that it seems like we feel more than we think?
Knowing the difference between your thoughts and feelings is very important. We think therefore we feel. The challenge is to learn how to cope with emotions associated with our thinking in a more proactive rather than a reactive way. If we can learn how to first identify our emotions, we can then effectively cope/express or act on in a productive manner and let them go. For every emotion there is a healthy and unhealthy way to express that feeling (healthy sadness vs. unhealthy depression, healthy fear vs. unhealthy fear, healthy anger vs. unhealthy anger, etc.) Below listed are healthy emotions compared to unhealthy emotions.
- You are able to feel emotions and identify your feeling (I feel?)
- You are able to communicate/express your emotions in a productive manner
- Your feelings are appropriate in response to an event or situation
- Your negative feelings go away after a short period of time
- You are able to identify the thought associated with your feeling (Thinking about living healthy makes me feel happy)
Symptoms of Unhealthy Emotions
- You are unable to identify your feelings (I feel fine or I don’t know how I feel)
- You are unable to communicate/express your emotions effectively
- Your feelings are far out of proportion (over-reaction) to situations
- Your negative feelings do not seem to go away
- You are unable to identify the thoughts associated with your feelings
The above gives you some idea about recognizing if your emotions are healthy or unhealthy. The first step is awareness. Once we become aware of our problem areas, we can than implement change and new skills.
A healthy emotion is usually accepted, expressed appropriately or acted upon in an effective way. For example, if I feel happiness toward my mate or child I will communicate, “I am happy that you came home early” or “I am happy that you cleaned your room”. To act upon a happy feeling may be to give a hug, a gift or show some gesture of appreciation. Negative emotions can also be coped with using this same formula. For example, if I feel angry toward my mate or my child I would communicate my dissatisfaction “I feel angry that I was not informed when the plans had changed” or “I feel upset that I asked that your room be cleaned and I was disobeyed”. To express the negative emotion in a healthy way will take the power out of it. Yelling and screaming when feeling negative emotions is unhealthy for you and your loved ones. Walk away when angry or generally upset to cool down. This is called the “fight or flight” option. Instead of fighting or expressing a negative emotion destructively, walk away and calm the emotion by challenging your negative thinking. Once the emotion is de-escalated, and you are thinking more clearly, then you can communicate effectively. When we speak with our emotions, we say things that may be inappropriate and may regret later. We always want to utilize intellect over our emotions. When we emote rather than think, we become irrational because our thinking skills are shut down by our emotions. We can change the way we feel by being aware of our feelings, and then addressing the thought attached to the feeling.
Having healthy emotions is part of our overall mental and physical well-being. Become aware of the way that you handle thoughts or situations that trigger a healthy or unhealthy emotional response. Monitor your emotional responding over the next couple of days. Keep a log. Do you respond effectively (i.e. problem solve, laugh, cry) or react inappropriately (focus on the problem? Act out? Overeat?) This is valuable information to assist you in your pursuit of living healthy and staying healthy!
Dr. Susan Pazak