Whether what we are feeling is positive or negative, there is no denying that emotions are a huge part of what it means to be human. Trying to repress our emotions never ends well, so it is best to understand why we feel the way we do and allow ourselves to experience it fully.
Why Did Human Beings Evolve To Feel Emotions?
There are times that the human brain seems like more of a mystery than anything else, but the truth is that it has been primed over countless years to give us the best chance at survival. The emotions we feel are integral to our continued existence as a species.
This might feel hard to believe when you are dealing with a toddler’s third tantrum of the day over having another five minutes of time with the iPad, but it’s true. Kids have not yet learned emotional regulation, and their brains are still developing at a rapid rate.
This heightened emotional state might not benefit them — and it certainly does not feel beneficial to you — right now, but over time these will change into necessary skills.
Emotions Help Us Survive
Some of the most basic emotions (which we will explore more soon) are key to our ability to survive. Without them, we would not be able to accurately perceive situations, which would likely lead to our downfall.
Positive emotions inform us that what we are doing is correct or beneficial to us in some way. Meanwhile, negative emotions give us crucial intel that we could be in danger. Other times, negative emotions inform us that we just did something we shouldn’t repeat in the future.
In theory, these perceptions should always benefit us, but that is not necessarily the case.
How Does Mental Illness Play Into Our Emotions?
The brain, while an undoubtedly amazing and complex organ, is still capable of processing errors. Mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and mood disorders can impact how we perceive our surroundings and can severely impact our emotional state. Mental illness impacts our inherent brain chemistry, altering our feelings and possibly altering how we act.
If you or a loved one or family member are experiencing symptoms of mental illness, please reach out to get help. Through talk therapy and other options, we have more methods than ever before of helping people feel their best.
What Part of the Brain Feels and Processes Emotions?
Neuroscience has so much to teach us about how we react and feel our emotions, as does psychiatry. There are multiple parts of the brain that process our emotions, and we need all of them to properly feel fully. These areas of the mind include the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the cingulate cortex.
If these components aren’t functioning as they should, people might struggle with things like emotion regulation, sleep, decision-making, or more. Besides mental health issues, these symptoms can present in people who have experienced injuries in these parts of the brain, altering their neurobiological functions.
What Are the Six Basic Emotions?
There are varying schools of thought regarding how many basic emotions there truly are, but science generally agrees on at least these six. Well, it is agreed upon if the movie Inside Out is any indication (that most of us parents have seen at least a few hundred times by now).
There is a character in that movie to represent each of the six basic emotions, and they are as follows:
The film does an excellent job of breaking down our emotions in a new light and in a way that children can easily relate to. This theory hypothesizes that more complex human emotions are a combination of these six core feelings and that nearly everything comes back to them.
Each individual doesn’t feel emotions the exact same way, and stimuli might inspire certain people to react differently from one another. However, these six emotions give us a baseline into each other’s psyches.
What Are the Benefits of Feeling Emotions?
Although our emotional roots might originate as a means of protection, they have evolved to help us in a whole host of ways.
Emotions Allow Us To Feel Sympathy
Let’s review the difference between sympathy and empathy:
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s position and feel what they might be feeling. Meanwhile, sympathy stays grounded in your own perspective, so you might generally feel bad or sorry for someone’s circumstances rather than getting more specific.
Empathy is often seen as a more intense or advanced version of sympathy, but feeling sympathy indicates emotional intelligence and maturity. Without at least a tentative understanding of what constitutes good and bad, we are unable to feel sympathy.
Feeling sympathy can cause us to act kindly and have more compassion for other people's well-being. Even if we might not be able to understand what someone is feeling directly, we can at least comprehend that something is amiss, and we hope the situation improves.
If we feel sympathy, this could also create a desire to do research or do what it takes to understand someone’s plight better. These emotional reactions are perfectly normal and an understandable part of human behavior.
Emotions Help Us Relate to Others
Even though we might not all experience feelings the same way, the vast majority of us have similar basic emotions that we can all relate to.
Kids typically show signs of developing empathy at around age four, but this number can vary somewhat depending on the child. Honing the ability to empathize is a crucial part of growing up. It also lends itself to the skill of better regulating one’s emotions in daily life.
In the coming years, kids’ emotional intelligence will grow exponentially. Soon, they will be able to recognize and identify facial expressions as a means of interpreting emotions, giving them a whole new way to relate to and perceive others.
When We Feel, We Act
If humans were always in a state of perfect equilibrium, we might settle into passivity or inaction in the face of injustice or sorrow. Our emotions greatly impact our decision-making.
For further proof, just think about the expression “to go with your gut.” Thankfully, your stomach is not literally making any tough decisions. Instead, this famous saying refers to our inherent emotional responses and listening to our instincts. Most of the time, we should balance a mixture of our emotions and logic when making decisions, but this doesn’t always occur.
In the case of a fight-or-flight response, we don’t have time to bring logic into the equation. Instead, bodily responses are triggered within the body based on certain stimuli that are deemed threatening. Our heart rate races; the nervous system jumps into action. The stress response prepares us to fight or run (but not necessarily logically).
A good example of an overactive nervous system could be anxiety disorders. With an anxiety disorder, a threat can be perceived when there is actually none around. This can throw the body into a life-disrupting state of panic and fight-or-flight.
How Can We Set Ourselves Up To Feel Positive Emotions?
While it is crucial to allow ourselves to feel our emotions entirely rather than repressing them and jeopardizing our mental health, it’s natural to want to feel more positive emotions. Luckily, there are multiple healthy ways to do this, and they might be simpler than you expected.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
This might seem simple at first glance, but getting a restorative night of sleep can make a large difference when it comes to our emotional state the next day. Having this sometimes elusive good night’s rest can be a challenge, but The Natural Patch Co. is here to help.
Our SleepyPatch Sleep Promoting Stickers help both adults and kids fall asleep and sleep the whole night through. The best part? These cute patches work wonders without any harsh chemicals or having to ingest anything.
Let this blend of essential oils soothe you to sleep. The you of tomorrow is sure to be immensely grateful to the you of tonight.
Mindfulness meditation is an age-old practice that has been helping people for generations. The practice allows people to better control their behavioral responses when they feel more grounded and present in the moment.
You can introduce your kids to mindfulness with easy breathing exercises, and you can promote a sense of calm with the help of our ZenPatch Mood Calming Stickers. For a child or adult who could use some added assistance with their ability to focus, the FocusPatch Focus Enhancing Stickers are wonderful.
Dealing With Feelings
Why we experience emotions can often seem like an enigma, but with the help of various pieces of science news, we can better understand why it is that we feel.