Ways to ride out our emotions

States like hunger, fatigue, or illness produce the same signals as emotions like anger, anxiety, or sadness. This shows the importance of looking after your body as a way to stabilise your mood.

  • A healthy diet and regular exercise can regulate your mood.
  • Mindfulness meditation can encourage you to observe and deconstruct your bodily signals.
  • A good emotion vocabulary is useful. Instead of describing yourself as 'happy', you may discern if you are 'blissful' or 'inspired'. Reading or watching films can increase your emotion vocabulary.
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Charles Darwin popularized the theory of emotional fingerprints - that each emotion creates a specific combination of facial expression, body language, and other physiological cues such as a heart rate.

But recently detailed analyses suggest there is no such thing. Each emotion is represented by a whole range of reactions. The way we interpret our body's signals, such as excited or anxious, depends entirely on the context of the situation and can be easily framed by our expectations.

You can take steps now to influence your future emotional experiences.

Knowing your real emotion can provide a deeper understanding of the situation you are in, such as reframing your unhappiness, so it no longer feels so all-consuming. You may also reconsider the source of your discomfort. Eventually, you may be able to categorise a situation with precision.

We learn interpretations from others. Your familiar emotion concepts come from your particular social context - your parents, friends, TV, and books, and your own past life experiences.

Other cultures will connect different kinds of meaning from the same sensory input. Utka Eskimos appear to have no clearly defined concept of anger, and Tahitians seem not to share our concept of sadness.

  • For example, a churning stomach and flushed face can feel like you're in love in a romantic setting but will be interpreted as 'feeling ill' if you are in bed with a thermometer in your mouth.
  • A stomach ache might signal a gut infection, or it might feel like homesickness if you are away from your family.
  • A rushing heartbeat could be interpreted as excitement when you're on a rollercoaster, acute anxiety if you're giving a speech, or simply that you've drunk too much coffee.
Our feelings can surprise us

Although we think that we know how we feel, the sensations of anger, anxiety, hunger, or illness are more alike than we realize.

We may sometimes misinterpret those signals with grave consequences. But there are some practical ways to gain control of our feelings.

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Simulation: The Way The Brain Really Works

Every moment that we are alive, our brain utilizes concepts to simulate the surrounding environment, practically creating ‘our’ world.

At any given moment, our brain tries to reconstruct, guess or compute what’s happening in the world using simulation. There is a lot of noisy, ambiguous information from our senses, which our brain uses to construct a simulation, and derive meaning from a fraction of the information(which seems relevant) while discarding the rest.

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IDEAS

What are emotions?

An emotion is a complex pyschological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response.

In addition to trying to define what emotions are, researchers have also tried to identify and classify the different types of emotions. The descriptions and insights have changed over time

Plutchik proposed eight primary emotional dimensions: happiness vs. sadness, anger vs. fear, trust vs. disgust, and surprise vs. anticipation. These emotions can then be combined to create others (such as happiness + anticipation = excitement).

Basic Emotions

There are many different types of emotions that have an influence on how we live and interact with others. 

The choices we make, the actions we take, and the perceptions we have are all influenced by the emotions we are experiencing at any given moment.

During the 1970's, pyschologist Paul Eckman identified six bacis emotions that he suggested were universally experienced in all human cultures.


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