3 Ways to Express Emotions Positively

Research shows that how we process our emotions matters.

Posted Jan 12, 2021

How you process and express your emotions can reduce or increase anxiety, according to researchers at the University of Illinois. Their study found that those who suppress their feelings or avoid expressing their feelings had more social anxiety and more anxiety in general than those who reappraised situations and focused on the positive. Another similar study found that suppressing emotions increased stress and led to other physical illnesses such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Courtesy of Alex Green via Pexels
Suppressing emotions can cause illness
Source: Courtesy of Alex Green via Pexels

Many people have trouble positively expressing their emotions. Some believe they only have two options: to blurt out their feelings and confront someone who they believe made them upset, or repress the feelings. But there are many ways of expressing your emotions. The three below are supported by research:

1. Journaling

Journaling is the act of writing down your thoughts and feelings to understand them more clearly, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. It can reduce stress and help you manage your anxiety.

Your journal gives you a private way of expressing your emotions. You can write down how you feel and what may have triggered your anxiety to allow you to understand stressors better and come up with a plan of either resolving the situation or coping with it more positively. Journaling will enable you to track anxiety symptoms to manage them better.

There isn’t any right or wrong way to write in a journal. However, the University of Rochester Medical Center does suggest to:

  • Write in your journal every day.
  • Write whatever feels right. Don’t worry about spelling or what other people might think.
  • Keep paper and pen handy so that you can write often.

Keep it private if you want; share parts if you want. Remember, you make the decisions; this is your personal, safe space to express how you feel.

2. Practice gratitude

Being grateful helps reduce stress and physical disease, according to a study completed in 2015. Paul J. Mills, the lead author, found that “more gratitude was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue, and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.” 

There are many ways you can work to include gratitude in your daily life, for example:

  • Write down three reasons you are grateful each day to help you focus on the positive in your life. Some people prefer to set aside a few minutes each day to reflect on what they appreciate in their life.
  • Find a gratitude buddy. This is someone you can share a positive thing with each day to help keep you motivated; for example, your friend might text and ask what you are grateful for today.
  • Use gratitude rituals. You might say (and mean) grace before meals or say a prayer of thanks each morning when you wake up or at night before you go to bed.
  • Tell someone you are grateful for their friendship, support, encouragement, or for something specific. Take the time to thank someone in person or write a letter expressing your appreciation.

Many people that begin practicing gratitude find it makes a tremendous difference in their life almost immediately. They find they are happier, more content, and less anxious.

3. Talk to someone

Whether you talk with a friend, relative, or therapist, openly discussing your feelings can help you put them in perspective. When you experience intense or negative emotions, talking it out often deflates them. Letting it out can diffuse the negativity and allow you to process the situation from a calmer perspective.

Talking also helps you identify your emotion. When you are stressed, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint whether you are angry or worried, irritable or anxious. Sometimes you wonder if you are justified for feeling a certain way or if your emotion’s intensity matches the situation. Discussing a problem can help you sort out your feelings. Talking helps to gain insight into your life and learn about yourself.

If you don’t have a relationship where you feel safe to talk about your emotions, consider speaking with a therapist or counselor. You can find a professional near you by using the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

References

Yates, Diana, "To suppress or to explore? Emotional strategy may influence anxiety," Illinois.edu: https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/204813

Staff writer, "Journaling for Mental Health," University of Rochester: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1

Staff writer, "A Grateful Heart is Healthier Heart," American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2015/04/grateful-heart