What are emotions?

Emotions are complex psychological and physiological responses that occur in response to internal or external stimuli. They are fundamental aspects of human experience and play a crucial role in how we perceive, interpret, and interact with the world around us. Emotions are universal, meaning that they are experienced by people across different cultures and societies.


Key characteristics of emotions include:


  • Subjectivity: Emotions are personal and subjective experiences, varying from one individual to another.
  • Triggers: Emotions are typically triggered by specific events, thoughts, or situations.
  • Responses: Emotions elicit a range of responses, including changes in facial expressions, body language, physiological arousal, and internal feelings.
  • Duration: Emotions can be brief, lasting only for a few moments, or they can persist for more extended periods.
  • Diversity: There is a wide spectrum of emotions, ranging from basic ones like happiness, sadness, fear, and anger to more complex ones like guilt, shame, jealousy, and empathy.
  • Adaptive function: Emotions serve adaptive functions, helping us respond appropriately to various situations and navigate social interactions.
  • Multifaceted nature: Emotions can have cognitive, behavioral, and physiological components, influencing our thoughts, actions, and bodily responses.
  • Cultural influence: While basic emotions are universal, how emotions are expressed and experienced can be influenced by cultural norms and societal expectations.

Multiple studies found that only about 36% of people in the world are emotionally Intelligent. Source

Only 10 to 15% of people genuinely are self-aware, despite the fact that 95% of people believe they are, according to Business Harvard Review.  


The study of emotions is a significant area of research in psychology and neuroscience, as understanding emotions can provide insights into human behavior, mental health, and interpersonal relationships. Emotions can be both positive and negative, and learning to recognize, understand, and manage them is essential for overall emotional well-being.


How to identify and understand our emotions?

Identifying and understanding our emotions is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Here are some strategies to help you recognize and comprehend your emotions better:


  • Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness techniques to become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Pay attention to the present moment without judgment.
  • Label emotions: Give a name to what you’re feeling. Use simple emotion words like happy, sad, angry, anxious, etc., to identify your emotional state.
  • Journaling: Keep a journal to jot down your thoughts and feelings regularly. Writing can help you process emotions and gain insights into their underlying causes.
  • Reflect on triggers: When you experience strong emotions, try to identify what triggered them. Was it a specific event, a memory, or a thought?
  • Notice physical sensations: Emotions often come with physical sensations. Pay attention to how your body responds when you experience different emotions, such as a racing heart when anxious or a warm feeling when happy.
  • Seek patterns: Look for patterns in your emotional responses. Are there certain situations or people that consistently evoke particular emotions in you?
  • Validate your emotions: It’s essential to acknowledge and validate your emotions, even if they seem uncomfortable or undesirable. Remember that all emotions are natural and have a purpose.
  • Use an emotions chart: Consider using an emotions chart or wheel, which categorizes a broad range of emotions. It can help you recognize feelings you might not be familiar with.
  • Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from close friends, family, or a therapist about how they perceive your emotional expressions. Sometimes others can offer valuable insights.
  • Take breaks and self-reflect: Give yourself time and space to process your emotions. Take breaks when needed, and engage in self-reflection to gain deeper insights into your feelings.
  • Practice empathy: Understanding other people’s emotions can also help you understand your own. Practice empathy by trying to put yourself in others’ shoes and imagine how they might feel.
  • Consider therapy: If you find it challenging to identify or understand your emotions, consider seeking help from a qualified therapist or counselor who can guide you through the process.


Remember that understanding emotions is an ongoing process, and it’s okay to take time and effort to improve your emotional awareness. The more you practice, the better you’ll become at identifying and understanding your emotions, leading to enhanced emotional intelligence and well-being.

Dr. Gloria Willcox’s Feelings Wheel can help us express our feelings and take care of our mental health.

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