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What are feelings?

Everyone has feelings and yet feelings are difficult to define. Feelings and emotions are words that are often used interchangeably to describe the complex changes in the brain, mind and body that occur from moment to moment.

Fear, anger, joy, boredom, envy, tranquility – these are all feelings, felt in our mind and body.

Eg: You’re walking on a deserted street at night and you hear footsteps behind you. Your body responds by a release of hormones and neurochemicals such as adrenaline, your heartbeat quickens, your breathing becomes rapid and your abdomen tenses; this along with the associated anxiety in your mind is what you call fear.

Or if you see your child, you smile, your heart rate relaxes, your body and breathing relaxes too and oxytocin is released in the brain and so on.

Feelings determine the course and quality of our lives, even if we are not aware of it. Feelings motivate us to make decisions. They allow us to be bold or cautious. We even choose activities and hobbies based on what we feel about them. Emotions, often called feelings, determine how we react to people, to places, to situations.

Feelings and emotions then influence everything from our career, to life partner to the way in which we live our life and ultimately the experience of life itself.

Therefore, if we want to live a life of peace and happiness and clarity, then it is important to develop an understanding of feelings and emotions.

Unfortunately, in modern society, many people have become disconnected from their feelings and our schools do not teach us how to understand and deal with emotions.

This can, in the long run, lead to stress and depression.

Learning how to manage our feelings and the feelings of those around us, can bring us true happiness and fulfilment.

How do they affect us?

Our feelings aren’t just in our heads. They affect our body and they can affect our health. Our emotions are contagious and the behaviours they drive can affect the mind, body and health of those around us. A foul mood is contagious and can trigger panic, fear and hate, just as much as a smile is infectious. Research has shown that people who feel positive and have an optimistic outlook on life are happier, live longer and are more fulfilled than people who are grouchy and pessimistic.

Emotions and its kinds

There are 7 fundamental emotions universally visible in the facial expressions of infants:

Happy

Happy

Impending gain

Surprised

Surprised

Unexpected event

Anger

Anger

An urgent plea for justice and action

Disgusted

Disgusted

Contamination, toxic contact

Contempt

Contempt

Substandard behaviour or being

Afraid

Afraid

Danger lurks

Sadness

Sadness

Impending loss

What are the real uses of emotions in our life?

An emotion’s real role is to provide us with the energy and motivation to meet our goals and needs. They in fact help us improve our performance in a given situation. They help us understand each other.

How to manage your feelings

Identify them

Identify them

The first step to manage your feelings is to be able to identify them. It’s the first step towards building your emotional intelligence. When you identify your emotions you also know how to respond to them.

Track them

Track them

Start monitoring your emotions. Understand what triggers your joy, sadness, contempt or anger.

Ask why

Ask why

Think about what is causing this feeling inside you. Ask yourself, “What is wrong (or right) about what’s happening to me right now? What is causing me to feel this way?” Start connecting the dots about why you reacted the way you did.

Take back control

Take back control

Don’t let your emotions hijack your responses. Your thoughts lead directly to your feelings. So if you are feeling bad, you are most likely to have a negative thought that is making you feel that way and subsequently a negative reaction. Think of other possible ways of looking at the situation and you will feel better immediately.

Respond, don’t react

Respond, don’t react

Now that you know what emotion you're dealing with, there are many ways you can respond. It includes walking away and refusing to react. You could also try to do the opposite of what you would normally do, even removing yourself from the situation, if you feel it will help. But always make sure your response is a conscious choice and not an involuntary reaction.

How to respond to other people’s feelings:

Empathy and validation are the way to go when you want to respond to someone’s feelings - positive, negative or even emotional outbursts.

Empathy

Being able to show empathy is one of the biggest skills you can learn. In a world that spends so much time picking at flaws and igniting fear and anger in people, empathy can be a balm to that fear and anger. Just remember, you have to put yourself in their shoes and help them.

8 ways to listen with empathy

Empathy is inherent in most people, and certain activities can increase empathy, or at least cooperation, between people. One key to empathising is to understand suffering, first in yourself, then in others. Provide the speaker with your undivided attention. This one time “multi-tasking” or “rapid refocus” will get you in trouble.

1

Be non-judgmental. Don’t minimise or trivialise the speaker’s issue.

2

Observe the emotions behind the words. Is the speaker angry, afraid, frustrated or resentful? Respond to the emotion as well as the words.

3

Be Quiet. Don’t feel you must have an immediate reply. Often if you allow for some quiet after the speaker has vented, they themselves will break the silence and offer a solution.

4

Show physical affection. Showing physical affection can boost oxytocin levels and make both of you feel better. Use a light hand squeeze, a hug or a hand on the shoulder as the situation dictates.

5

Assure your understanding. Ask clarifying questions and restate what you perceive the speaker to be saying.

6

Preserve the dignity of the person and avoid humiliation.

7

Engage in a dialogue to understand their point of view and to determine their specific needs.

8

Provide assistance to meet his needs to the extent you are willing and able to.

Feeling empathy for a difficult person

We all know people who are disagreeable, selfish, bigoted, irresponsible, deceitful, untrustworthy, arrogant, stubborn, ignorant, spiteful, boisterous, crude, boring, needy, intrusive, embarrassing to be around, and generally difficult to like. How can you have empathy for such people? The answer is that you don't have to like someone to want the best for them. You may feel sad that they are so anguished and want them to: become more aware of how they annoy others, take steps to improve themselves, become more responsible, care more for others, and take other steps to become more satisfied and peaceful.

Validation

Validation is a powerful communication skill. Its usage can dismantle power struggles, resolve arguments, and build deep trusting relationships. Validation means to express understanding and acceptance of another person's situation, whatever that might be. Validation does not mean you agree or approve. Rejecting, ignoring and judging is the opposite of validation.

Simply stated, validation is like saying, “We are confirming that they have just received an emotional package.” The challenge is to allow them to open the emotional package the way they want to open it.

How to validate other’s feelings

Saying to someone, “I understand,” is typically not helpful and tends to minimize their feelings. Simply try to validate the feelings the person has shared. Since we don’t know for sure what the person is feeling, use words that are gentle and open to possibilities.

Generally, when people feel understood they are more open to receiving help and locating a place of calm within their soul. Once this is achieved, they gain the emotional and spiritual strength they need to deal with the challenge.

How to validate yourself

Self-validation is essentially about being true and authentic to ourselves. If we can't be true and authentic, we are sacrificing ourselves for the benefit of another, and we are most likely enabling another person's dysfunction. This helps no one.

Step 1

You need to start to notice how much you judge yourself rather than value yourself.

Step 2

You need to start to notice your feelings, your inner knowing, and your acts of kindness to others, and consciously value them.

Step 3

Put yourself first by learning to love yourself – this even includes taking decisions to eat well, give yourself enough sleep and exercise, speaking up for yourself with others without blame, creating a balance between work and play, moving yourself toward doing work you love, and so on.

Practice this and you will discover yourself feeling better about yourself and needing less and less validation from others as you take these steps.

Suicide

Suicide and India

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in India. 187,000 Indians killed themselves in 2010 – and accounted for one-fifth of all global suicides.

If you’re feeling suicidal, it means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. This pain seems overwhelming and permanent at the moment. But with time and support, you can overcome your problems and the pain and suicidal feelings will pass.

Why suicide can seem like the only option

If you are unable to think of solutions other than suicide, it is not that other solutions don’t exist, but rather that you are currently unable to see them. Therapists, counselors, or friends or loved ones, can help you to see solutions that otherwise may not be apparent to you. Give them a chance to help.

A suicidal crisis is almost always temporary

Although it might seem as if your pain and unhappiness will never end, it is important to realize that crises are usually temporary. Solutions are often found, feelings change, unexpected positive events occur. Give yourself the time necessary for things to change and the pain to subside.

Remember that while it may seem as if these suicidal thoughts and feelings will never end, this is never a permanent condition. You WILL feel better again.

Resolve not to do anything harmful to yourself and call a suicidal helpline.

 

Avoid alcohol or narcotics.

 

Don’t keep suicidal feelings to yourself, talk to someone.

 

Remember you WILL get through this.

 

Seek help from a professional counselor or at least from friends & family.

Speak to someone daily.

 

Have a picture of the person you’re closest to, with you always.

 

Get out in the sun and exercise.

 

Do something that makes you happy.

 

Focus on your personal goals.

Take it seriously and listen.

 

Get professional help and follow-up on treatment.

 

Remove potential means of harm.

 

Be willing to help sooner rather than later.

 

Encourage positive lifestyle changes.

If you’re feeling suicidal right now, please call for help! Call 022-25521111 in India or talk to someone you trust and let them know how bad things are.

When do you need professional help to manage your feelings?

Often feelings can weigh down on a person’s psyche. It can drive an individual to a point where instant professional help might be required to cope with the intensity of the situation and eventually overcome the same. In order to understand whether you need professional assistance to manage your feelings, you need to Understand Mental Health.

Emotional intelligence quotient

Sometimes understanding your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) can also help you in communicating with yourself and with others. Take the quiz to know where you stand when it comes to EQ.

quiz-bulb

Know your emotional quotient

Take the quiz

DISCLAIMER: This test is not a diagnostic tool, it’s merely a gauge for how you understand and relate to your feelings and emotions. It is by no means a professional diagnosis – for that, you would need to see a qualified mental health professional - which you could locate here.

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