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Feeling in the mood to talk about emotions?

Author: Katie Hart

Date: 12 May 2023

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Feeling in the mood to talk about emotions?
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Hmmm, do you see what I did there? Do you FEEL in the MOOD to talk about EMOTIONS?

How many times do we use those terms in interchangeable ways? Feelings, moods, emotions – they are all the same right?

Wrong.

For those of us who explore, research and analyse them on a daily basis, there are clear differences between them. Care to be enlightened?

The way I recommend people remember these three, and their differences, is to think of food. Emotions are like raw ingredients. We may not notice them individually, but they are vital, and they are there working away on our behalf. Feelings, are more like meals. We are consciously aware of these and they sustain us and provide us with vital resources. And moods, well they are like our diet. Viewed over time, the individual meals we consume will make up a diet which we can alter and change if we are seeking different results.

So, let’s go into each of them in more detail:

Emotions (ingredients)

Now, you may believe that I have started with Emotions as I am going through the three alphabetically. Which I am. Coincidentally.

You see the real reason I have started with emotions is because they are the fastest, the fleeting response your body produces to what it perceives is going on around you. You are subconsciously experiencing emotions all the time, and in response to these, your brain releases certain chemical combinations which trigger certain changes within us. Some of these changes affect us physiologically (like increasing our heart-rate if we are scared) and some of these changes affect our thinking (like alerting us to possibilities if we are excited).

So, emotions are essentially chemical changes that our brains produce, which serve to help us understand and adapt to our environment.

Feelings (meal)

When these chemical changes start to affect us, they become feelings. For example, some emotions persist or are of sufficient intensity to reach a threshold, and we become aware of them. We feel them. I feel scared, angry, happy, excited, dubious, loved etc.

The purpose of this process and awareness, is to equip us and potentially affect us for action. If I feel high levels of stress and fear, then I am being cognitively prepared to face a tough challenge, where I will need to be resourceful and strong. Conversely, if I feel pleasure and relaxation, then I am being cognitively released to relax and restore some of my energies.

It is vital to note though, that we will rarely be experiencing just one feeling at a time. There will be others behind that loudest most noticeable one, feelings which still serve a purpose if we know how to access them.

Moods (diet)

Over time, the amalgamation of the emotions and feelings we have, create our mood. They are more enduring and serve a different functional purpose within us. They can be confusing as they are a mix of emotions and feelings, and they are more lasting, so naturally include a wide range of emotions and feelings which have occurred within that time.

Unlike fleeting emotions, moods are there to give us a more lasting state of readiness. They support us in being prepared for what might be coming next. When I am in a hopeless mood, I have low energy and cannot motivate myself to act – and why would I if I believe there is no hope? If I am angry, I am threatened in some way, so my body and I are defensive and ultra-sensitive to possible attacks. When I am happy, I am safe, experiencing pleasure and therefore not highly motivated to create change in my world. Hmmm, so now do you begin to appreciate how the mood you are in, has such a significant role to play in what and how you perceive things around you?

Because of their enduring nature, moods can also be significantly influenced by our diet, sleep, exercise regime, environment etc.

So, there you have it. The three different meanings behind the terms ‘emotions’, ‘feelings’ and ‘moods’. And a convenient food-related way to remember then.

This brings whole new meaning to the phrase ‘food for thought’ doesn’t it?!

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