Although the two words are used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between emotions and feelings. So why does it matter?
It matters because understanding the difference between the two can help you change unhealthy behaviors and find more happiness and peace in your life. Emotions and feelings are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are also two very different things.
Emotions are chemicals released in response to our interpretation of a specific trigger. It takes our brains about 1/4 second to identify the trigger, and about another 1/4 second to produce the chemicals. Additionally, emotion chemicals are released throughout our bodies, not just in our brains, and they form a kind of feedback loop between our brains & bodies.
They originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments.
Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. While they do vary slightly individually and depending on circumstances, they are generally universally similar across all humans and even other species.
Feelings happen as we begin to integrate the emotion, to think about it, to “let it soak in.” We often use “feel” for both the physical and emotional sensation — we can say we physically feel cold, but we can also emotionally feel cold. This is a clue to the meaning of “feeling,” it’s something we sense.
Feelings are more “cognitively saturated” as the emotion chemicals are processed in our brains & bodies. Feelings are often fueled by a mix of emotions, and last for longer than emotions.
A feeling is a mental portrayal of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion and is the byproduct of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion.
It may be the proverbial tightness in the chest, clenching of the teeth, butterflies in the stomach, a lump in the throat, tension in the neck and shoulders, or some other sensation. So a feeling in this sense is a communication coming from the body to the mind.
Emotions and feelings are not one-and-the-same although these words are often used interchangeably. As you have learned, our emotions serve a wide variety of purposes. Emotions can be fleeting, persistent, powerful, complex, and even life-changing. They can motivate us to act in particular ways and give us the tools and resources we need to interact meaningfully in our social worlds.
For more information about emotions, general health or coaching services please contact us!
Dr. Christine Sauer, MD,ND(Ger), INHC, CBHC is a German-trained conventional as well as naturopathic physician, a Certified Brain and Mental Health Expert and Coach and a Certified Integrative Nutrition Holistic Health Coach. Through her own journey from successful owner of a large practice in Germany through the abyss of mental and physical health to complete recovery she discovered her unique process to help her clients achieve lasting health and wellness. Her mission is to change the world for the better, one life at a time. Her hobbies are science, learning new things, cooking, gardening and her backyard chickens and dogs.
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