Ever wonder why we have emotions? You know, these things that you feel when someone says something mean to you or when you kiss someone you love? Emotions are strong feelings that are directed at something or someone. We can feel a lot of different emotions throughout the day. Mood on the other hand represents feelings that are less intense but may last for longer. For example, you can be in a bad mood for several hours, while the feelings of anger or sadness are more fleeting.
There are actually dozens of emotions. Happiness, joy, hope, love, pride, surprise, disappointment, embarrassment, frustration, fear and sadness are just a few examples of what we are capable of feeling.
How do we feel emotions?
It’s no surprise that the answer lies in your brain. Emotions originate in the brain’s limbic system. This part of the brain also plays a role in behavior, motivation and long-term memory. Research suggests that people report more positive than negative emotions when their limbic system is inactive. However, when the limbic system ‘heats up’, our mind becomes dominated by negative emotions such as anger. The level of activity of your limbic system does not depend purely on whether someone makes you angry or not. For example, women tend to have more active limbic systems in comparison to men. And they say women are too emotional… well duh, we have evolved to be emotional. The activity in the limbic systems helps women to emotionally bond with their children.
Why do we feel emotions?
Darwin argued that emotions help us in problem solving. They drive us to engage in activities connected to the survival of the human race such as choosing mates, seeking shelter or predicting others’ behavior.
Our emotions are influenced by a lot of factors. They are connected to your personality and mindset. But you are also likely to experience negative or positive emotions depending on the time of day, weather, your sleep quality or stress levels. How you spend your time matters! Studies show that physical activities and informal social meetings increase positive emotions. Another interesting finding is that our emotional experience changes with age. As we get older, we experience fewer negative emotions.
What is emotional intelligence?
Ok, so emotions are a crucial part of our life. There’s no running away from them. And unless you learn how to master them, they will take over your life. That’s where the importance of emotional intelligence or EQ comes in. Being emotionally intelligent means being able to detect and manage emotional information. For example, instead of smashing everything around you because you’re angry, you recognise what you're feeling and you take a deep breath before acting acting on the feelings of anger.
5 dimensions of emotional intelligence:
Self-awareness – meaning you are aware of what you’re feeling
Self-management - which is the ability to manage your emotions without going full on Hulk on everyone every time you get angry
Self- motivation – the ability to persist when you are faced with setback or failure
Empathy – being able to sense how others are feeling
Social skills – meaning the ability to handle the emotions of others
Being an emotionally intelligent person is about taking the time to figure out your own emotions. Once you are able to manage yourself, it will also become easier for you to be empathetic towards others. You can learn to be more emotionally intelligent at any point in your life. Already the fact that you’ve taken the time to read this article is awesome! Learning about how your mind works is the first step towards mastering your inner world. I always said psychology was cool…
But back to the wonderland of emotions… Emotions help us in problem solving, communication and relationship building with others. They are the reason why we are here, why we fall in love and why we are motivated to do the work we do. Emotions matter and the sooner we learn about them the better. Having the ability to take charge of your own emotions and happiness will make you better equipped to also make the world around you a better place.