Think back to a time when you experienced a strong emotion such as:

  • joy

  • sadness

  • fear

Now think about how your body felt.

A man in front of a car. A woman stands beside him with a sheet of paper. He says, You might have been shaking, crying, or you might have felt light and tingly.

Your emotions and bodily reactions are intertwined. Understanding the relationship can have positive effects on your life!

Why It Matters

A woman pointing to the text,

Tuning into your body's physical reactions helps you identify the emotions you're experiencing.

Once you're more in touch with your emotions, you can begin to express them better verbally and understand yourself more.

Understanding and expressing your emotions can help with your well-being, promote healthy coping, and support deeper relationships.

The Body-Mind Connection

Profile of a head with sticky notes of various emotions inside.

As you go about your day, your brain constantly receives signals from your body, registering the emotions you're feeling.

These bodily reactions are automatic, hard to control, and often occur before you even know you're experiencing a particular emotion.

For example:

  • the hairs on the back of your neck might stand up when you sense danger

  • your face might turn red if you're embarrassed

  • you may start shaking uncontrollably if you're afraid

  • your body could feel numb if you're in shock

    Emma Stone at Academy Awards: I am gonna hug you when the feeling re-enters my body.

Examples Of Bodily Reactions To Emotions

Fear 😱

  • Racing heart

  • Dry mouth

  • Pale skin

Happiness 😻

  • Light feeling in chest

  • Energetic overall

  • Flushed skin

Sadness 😭

  • Slowed heart rate

  • Lethargy

  • Stomach or chest pain

Anger 😤

  • Chest pressure

  • Raised heart rate

  • Blood rushing into head

Activation Points In The Body

The chart above shows actual activation points (red/yellow) and deactivation points (bright blue/light blue) that occur in the body in association with a variety of emotions. Black is neutral.

For example, anxiety results in increased sensation in the chest, stomach, neck, and sides of the head, and decreased sensation in part of the legs.

Quiz

Refer to the chart above. Which emotion is reflected as activation in the head and upper chest, and deactivation in the upper and lower legs?

How To Tune In

Jason Sudeikis SNL GIF: I don't know why I'm getting emotional

The next time you're experiencing an emotion but can't put your finger on what it is, take a moment to focus on what's going on in your body. This can help you clarify your emotions.

1. Take a breath. 2. Note what's happening in your body. 3. Identify the emotion.

Meet Yasmina

Flaticon Icon

Yasmina sometimes has emotional outbursts that seem to come out of nowhere. She wants to get a better idea of what's going on. What can she do the next time this happens?

A. Call her mom and discuss her childhood history of outbursts.

B. Note what's happening in her body and identify her feelings.

C. Start journaling and reflecting on her emotions in general.

D. Stop and take a walk to help alleviate the stress in her life.

Quiz

What should she do?

Take Action

Now that you know how your emotions and bodily reactions are related, check out these Bytes to learn more:

All the feels!

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This Byte has been authored by

MD

Mary Ellen D'Intino

Learning Designer