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Expressing your emotions is important—not just for your mental health, but for your physical health as well.

Special thanks to Dr. David Caruso for his input on this topic! You can check out his work on emotional intelligence with the EI Skills Group at www.eiskillsgroup.com/.

Hosted by: Brit Garner
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Sources:
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[INTRO ♪].

Everyone feels things. And sometimes, those emotions are so strong that you just want to laugh or cry or scream.

But then you think better of it, right? Well, as cheesy and New-Agey as it might sound, it’s often healthy to just let those feelings out. There’s evidence that expressing your emotions— and connecting with the emotions of others— is good for you, both physically and mentally.

Bottling your feelings up might seem like a good idea at the time, but studies suggest that’s not a healthy way to deal with emotions. For example, in a study of 111 people in 2013, researchers found a small, positive correlation between a person’s score on an emotional suppression scale and their mortality risk—basically, how likely they were to die for any reason. It’s not clear exactly how suppressing emotion might lead to your death, but it could be that it makes it more likely you’ll choose “unhealthy” outlets for your feelings, like smoking.

And other research has linked how you handle angry and hurt feelings to aggressive behavior, which is also generally not great for your overall well-being. Aggressive and angry people are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and are at higher risk of heart attacks, for example. On top of that, aggression is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression.

And while it might seem obvious that people who aren’t great at controlling their anger are more likely to experience aggressive outbursts, it turns out that folks who try to suppress their angry feelings too much can also end up being more aggressive. Researchers think this might be because suppressing your negative feelings makes you feel worse in the long run, which in turn makes it harder for you to make good decisions and pushes away the people who care about you. And other studies have connected emotional expression, or lack thereof, to all sorts of things that can influence your health and relationships— like anxiety and stress or risk-taking.

And it’s not just about how often you’re laughing or crying— appropriate emotional expression is also about perceiving the emotions of other people. This is sort of summarized by a psychological concept called emotional intelligence. A person’s emotional intelligence includes their ability to interpret and control their own emotions, as well as recognizing and understanding the emotions of others.

It isn’t just a psychological concept; researchers are actually trying to study the underlying neuroscience as well. So far emotional intelligence been connected to activity in the brain areas involved in the circuits that process emotions, like the amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate cortex. And while emotional intelligence has become kind of buzzwordy in the business world these days, unlike many fad terms, there’s actually some good science behind it.

Higher scores on measures of emotional intelligence are linked to better mental and physical health. And your emotional intelligence can dramatically affect your communication with others, whether they be friends, family, or even business partners. That’s because emotions provide important data and context that influence your interactions with other people, says psychologist David Caruso.

He told SciShow that emotional intelligence is an ability— basically, it’s a skill that can help you communicate better. When you’re in touch with your own emotions, you’re not only better able to manage them, you’re also better able to empathize with the emotional experiences of others. Which can help you develop better relationships in business and at home.

And ultimately, that means a healthier, happier life. But not all of us are great with our feelings. And if you’re one of those people who doesn’t deal with emotions well,.

I have some good news. While psychologists may debate whether or not you can really “get better” at emotional intelligence, research has found that training can improve your ability to identify and manage emotions. And according to Caruso, there are definitely strategies you can use to make it easier to use emotional information when communicating.

An example would be to create a list of questions to ask yourself in any given situation, to help read the emotional setting— like “How do I feel?” “Why do I feel that way?” “What is the other person feeling right now?”— and then use that information to help you make decisions. You can also work on your emotional vocabulary, and think carefully about the words you’re using. Rather than saying that you hate broccoli, which indicates a very strong emotion, try saying you dislike it instead.

This prevents overusing strong emotional words, which can take away from their meaning. And as Caruso pointed out to us, sometimes it’s a good thing to do a little suppressing. Not all emotions are appropriate for all situations, and being able to navigate emotions in a social or professional setting is part of this important skill.

But emotions are an unavoidable part of life; they’re part of what it means to be human. So even though we’re often expected to cover up how we’re really feeling, research is showing that being open to your emotions and those of others can improve relationships and individual health. Maybe it’s about time we all had a good cry and started opening up about our feelings a little bit more.

Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Psych! If you have young people in your life who you want to share SciShow with, we have a SciShow channel just for kids! Check out this recent video on why we cry when we’re sad. [OUTRO ♪].