The Secret to Changing How You Feel - The Living Well

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The Secret to Changing How You Feel

I used to lump emotions and feelings into one big category as if they are two in the same. I found my feelings ending up in a negative light – living more in scarcity rather than full joy. Honestly, I just thought it was all about what life handed me.

But I’m learning quite the difference – transforming how I feel and giving me back control. While it’s challenging – it’s also quite liberating, and I think it’s worth your time to ponder.  

Here’s the big point, if you read no further. 

Emotions are not the same thing as feelings. 

Hand holding chai latte

Let your mind explode for a second {as mine did} and then hear this out. 

Your emotions are…

Emotions are a reaction to the environment. 

They are hardwired into us, making up a part of our DNA. While emotions tend to be complicated and involve various physical and cognitive responses inside our bodies, in general, the purpose is to produce a specific response to a stimulus. 

Emotions are carried out by the limbic system, which is our emotional processing center. This also means emotions are illogical, irrational, and unreasonable. Meaning they’re felt whether they make sense or not. 

Psychologists have identified 21 different categories of emotions – from admiration, anger, anxiety, awe, boredom, calmness, fear, guilt, horror, interest, joy, nostalgia, pride, romance, sadness, sexual desire, surprise, sympathy, and the list continues. 

Your feelings are…

On the other hand, feelings play out only in your head. 

Feelings are the perception of emotion. Meaning they come after the emotion has been experienced.

Feelings are the mental perception of an emotion that are personal and acquired through experience. Feelings tend to be based on your stored memories and what you’ve experienced in your past. 

There are over 4000 feelings in the English language. 

The difference between them.

The difference between emotions and feelings is quite dramatic – here are the definitions again:

An emotion is a reaction to the environment.

A feeling is the perception of the emotion. 

It may not seem as if emotions and feelings are that different, but they are. The big difference is that emotions are hardwired – they’re a valid and necessary biological response that is somewhat unconscious. Meaning it is outside of our control. 

On the other hand, our feelings are simply a choice. 

You can choose

The secret to changing how you feeling is knowing you can choose how you want to feel.

If our feelings are a choice, that means regardless of what emotion you are feeling – even if it’s one you’d rather not have – we have a choice in how we feel. 

It might not seem like it, but if you take a look around, you’ll notice that everyone handles grief, joy, worry differently. Some for good and some not so good – but knowing it’s a choice you can start to use, even the bad for good. 

Emotional freedom

This knowledge was liberating – yet extremely challenging for me. Liberating that I no longer have to feel the way I do. Yet challenging because it boils down to me choosing to feel a different way. 

That choice doesn’t always come easy. 

While we don’t always like the way we feel, our feelings bring comfort. I like to think of this as being prepared for the worst. As if thinking it will prepare me for if it happens, and if it happens, I wouldn’t be as hurt by it. 

Making me a master to my own misery, finding comfort in the things that brought me pain. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

How you feel, or your perception of the emotion is a trained aspect that can be re-trained in your brain. 

But it happens through a daily choice. 

First, you must be aware of how you’re feeling—understanding what emotion is driving that feeling.

Second, be willing to challenge that feeling. Understanding where it’s coming from.

Third, let it go. Feelings are a necessary part of human nature. You’ll never stop feeling them, but trying to suppress what you’re feeling or not feeling it will only make it stick. Feel whatever it is you feel and consciously let it go. 

Now the choice is yours. How will you choose to feel, no matter how your body responds to the emotion? Will you end the negative cycle and use it for good? 

The ability to re-train our brains is potentially the most exciting science being studied right now. With the absolute knowledge that your brain can be molded into something, you can breathe easy knowing that you don’t have to stay stuck in this place you hate. Change can happen, and you can feel a new way. 

Make it easy{ier}

To make this process happen more quickly and easily, make sure you’re practicing daily gratitude. As Brene Brown states, “Joy and good feelings are always associated with gratitude.” Changing your brain depends on it. 

So live aware and start practicing gratitude. 

Most importantly, know you can change how you feel – it’s your choice. And let that choice liberate you. 

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