Owning Your Feels Makes You Happier
You know stress. Who doesn’t? You also know it will probably pass – right after you meet that looming deadline. Except it doesn’t always fade, and you remain tense and clenched. Why? Perhaps because you’re not actually stressed. Turns out, big, well-known emotions can disguise a host of more nuanced feels. Stuff like stress can be the tip of an emotional iceberg, with a whole lot more going on down below. For example, perhaps it wasn’t the deadline frazzling you – it was the fact that your boss always subtly undermines you. Research shows that acknowledging and addressing these buried feelings can lead to ‘better psychological health, career success and meaning in life’, says psychologist Susan David, author of Emotional Agility – and people who don’t do so are at greater risk for mentalhealth woes such as anxiety and depression.
Ready to dig deep and reap major benefits? Welcome to COSMO’s crash course on tapping into your feels. It’s time to get all emo!
1 Expand Your Vocab
‘If you don’t know what emotion you’re dealing with, you can’t express it constructively,’ says psychologist Tony Ferretti. To that end, write down five positive feelings (e.g. excitement, joy, passion, satisfaction, hope) and five negative ones (anxiety, fear, guilt, anger, frustration) on index cards. Jot down the actual definitions on the back of each card, and feel zero shame if you have to consult a dictionary. Each day, choose one card and try to notice when you or someone else is experiencing that sensation. Chances are it will crop up: we all experience 10 to 15 emotions per day, says Ferretti. Notice how various feelings affect your body. Are you sweating? Do you feel buoyant? Keep it up until you can ID your emotions as soon as they surface.
2 Look Closer
Now that you have more words to work with, the next time you feel a really intense emotion, try to unpack it, says David. What’s beneath this feeling? Can you name two other emotions you’re also sensing?
Say you’re mad that bae waits two hours before texting you back. A little more investigating might reveal that you’re anxious about the strength of your bond after being burned by your last BF. Don’t talk yourself out of this – instead, sit with it for a bit. ‘Consciously feeling your emotions helps you move through them faster,’ says sociologist Christine Carter, author of
The Sweet Spot. ‘When you deny or repress them, you’re actually amplifying them.’ 3 Connect Your Feels Most emotions are trying to tell you something, says David. To figure out what it is, try linking the feeling to your personal values. For example, if you feel nagging guilt, it could be that (deep down) you know you’re not being present for your mom during a health scare, yet family is very important to you. Recognising emotions and identifying the data they contain will help you take appropriate action.
4 Express Yo’self
When your feelings involve other people, let them know this ‘assertively, directly and honestly’, says Ferretti. If you’re afraid of how someone will react, you can spill your guts in a letter. This might mean apologising to bae for being MIA, then booking a romantic weekend away. Or admitting you’ve been jealous of his work wife and that it makes you feel insecure when he texts her on weekends. Or letting your manager know that you could use a new challenge at work, then volunteering for a big long-term project. ‘Emotions connect people,’ says Ferretti. ‘If you’re not sharing yours, you’re not going to have much of a connection with others.’
If the issue is more personal – perhaps you’re mad at yourself for procrastinating on that novel you’ve always wanted to write – your best release will come from dishing to a close friend or noting your frustrations in a journal. Of course, not every emotion has an easy solve. Getting over trauma or major grief, says Ferretti, may require extra help from a therapist, who can provide effective coping strategies.