You’ve probably heard the phrase “a roller coaster of emotions,” and that’s a pretty accurate description of what’s possible on any given day. The list of emotions experienced by humans on a daily basis is complex. But don’t be afraid, because not only is it normal to have a lot of feelings, it’s expected.
Although all humans wonder how to be happy, seemingly negative emotions have helped humans survive dangerous situations. The neurotransmitters in our brain adapt to the circumstances so that our body can react appropriately. It’s when we face chronic negative emotions that our health is at risk, but there are ways to regulate emotions and spot emotional triggers. This allows you to stay in control of your mental and physical health.
What are emotions?
Emotions are instinctive states of mind or feelings that arise from the circumstances of a person’s life. In the brain, they are stimulated by movement of neurotransmitters in response to stimuli. Researchers suggest that our basic emotions have been ingrained in us since primitive times, when the emotions of our ancestors evolved in response to everyday challenges. In reality, these basic emotions are in place as a means of survival. They are triggered automatically, unconsciously and quickly in certain situations.
A popular concept is that there is a basic list of emotions, indicating the primary and primitive emotions that humans experience on a daily basis. These serve as building blocks of more complex emotions.
List of emotions
When studying emotions in psychology, we find that emotional labels are established empirically, with a strong consensus on five basic emotions:
Shame, surprise and embarrassment are also part of the list of emotions considered fundamental.
In the list of five types of emotions, there are several complex emotions and even facial expressions, so let’s dive a little deeper into each of the emotions in the main list to understand them better.
Let’s start with the most debated basic emotion, anger. It can be difficult to detect during development, and it can be directed both inward and outward.
Although often considered a negative emotion, anger is normal and necessary for survival. It allows humans to defend themselves in dangerous or toxic situations.
A list of emotions associated with anger includes the following feelings:
Fear is caused by the perception of a risk to safety and to the safety of others. The endocrine and autonomic nervous systems prepare the body to face danger, triggering the “flight, fight, stupor” responses that occur in the face of fear. It is a normal and necessary emotional reaction that allowed our ancestors to face daily dangers and threats.
Research highlights that a person’s perception and reaction to fear depends on their personality and mental health status. For example, a person with severe anxiety experiences higher levels of fear, even though the threat is seen as less frightening by others.
Feelings associated with fear include:
Disgust, which is believed to have arisen when our ancestors were provoked by potentially harmful foods, is a strong disapproval and rejection of something offensive. Feelings of disgust arise after experiencing something unpleasant, whether it’s a smell, a sight, or a thought.
Feelings of disgust can also be described as follows:
Sadness is a basic emotion that occurs when you lose someone important, fail to achieve a goal, or lose a sense of control. Research looking at the many expressions of sadness indicates that it can cause tears, chest pains, and feelings of helplessness. It’s completely normal to feel sadness, and each of these basic emotions, from time to time. It’s the chronic sadness that impacts your daily life that becomes problematic.
Feelings associated with sadness include:
Since Aristotle, happiness has been described as an emotion that consists of pleasure and a life well lived (or meaning). Of course, everyone aspires to happiness, but what actually makes us happy differs depending on our culture and expectations. Happiness is known to be highly individualized, as a person’s state of contentment is associated with their “desire” and “liking,” researchers say.
Here are some common words used to describe feelings of happiness:
full of hope
Beyond this list of emotions, researchers agree that there are others worth studying and recognizing. These include in particular
How Emotions Affect Us
Emotions are linked to levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemical messengers, like dopamine and serotonin, are released when the brain receives happy news, giving you that feeling of light and warmth that accompanies that core emotion. Conversely, a drop in these neurotransmitters causes the sadness and heaviness that accompanies this emotion.
It is completely normal for neurotransmitter levels to rise and fall throughout the day based on your experiences and thoughts. In fact, emotions help keep us safe from harm and keep us socially connected, which is so important for survival.
The most common neurotransmitters involved in positive and negative emotions are:
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)
Although a change in these neurotransmitters is normal and expected, chronic negative emotions can have a major impact on your health. Negative emotional states cause stress on the body, leading to increased inflammation, increased risk of mental health issues, and weakened immune function. According to a study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience, psychological stress triggers inflammatory activity and cognitive changes. Chronic sadness, for example, plays an important role in the onset and recurrence of depression.
To sum up, a shift in emotions from negative to positive is normal, but when you experience negative emotions chronically, it can have major health implications. This is exactly why you should work to regulate your emotions and address the triggers of negative feelings.
How to control them
Being able to identify what you are feeling from the list of emotions helps you control or deal with them appropriately. It usually requires attention and thought. Pay close attention to physical signs of emotions, such as sweaty palms and racing heart for fear, body aches for sadness, and increased body temperature for anger.
Think about emotional triggers
The root of emotions is not always obvious, it can stem from deeper issues or insecurities. If you’re not sure why you’re feeling a particular emotion, look for potential triggers. It can actually come from an unexpected source, such as fatigue, missing a friend or family member, hunger, or an unhealthy meal.
The practice of mindfulness, which is a mental state achieved by focusing on your awareness in the present moment, helps you to understand and accept your feelings. This awareness of the present moment makes it easier to detect and understand your emotions. Research shows that mindfulness-based interventions have positive effects on psychological well-being.
How to practice mindfulness?
One of the best ways is through mindfulness meditation, which allows you to focus on the sensations in your body. Any other quiet reflective time is helpful, such as a walk in the fresh air, practicing yoga, gardening, and cooking. Mindfulness or silent reflection can help you deal with your feelings, calm your mind, and regulate your emotions.
It is normal to feel uncontrollable emotions from time to time, when you are faced with a positive or negative situation. To master your daily emotions, it is essential to take care of yourself.
How can you understand and regulate your feelings if you are not listening to yourself and taking care of your health?
Are you eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting enough rest, moving, engaging with loved ones, devoting time to thinking, and spending time outdoors? These are just a few of the actions you should take every day to promote your overall well-being.
The list of basic emotions has been the subject of debate and research for centuries. Scientists seem to agree that there are five main ones: anger, fear, disgust, sadness and happiness. This list of negative and positive emotions is triggered by stimuli that alter levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. It is a normal and necessary biological process, put in place to ensure the survival of human beings. When humans experience chronic negative feelings, they face serious repercussions, such as an increased risk of mental, physical and social health problems. To regulate your feelings, practice mindfulness, identify your feelings and their triggers, and make self-care a priority.