Emotions are information

Emotions are responses to chemical and contextual cues. They provide a type of information that is not conveyed easily through other means. The trick is to interpret that information well. For instance, I often feel sad and anxious and honestly pretty bleak when winding down at the end of the day. What information does that sadness and anxiety convey? Could it mean my life is terrible and all of my decisions are regrettable? I mean, it could. But yikes. Or, could it mean I’m tired and being tired makes people more sensitive to negative affect? The information from first interpretation would mean I should upend my entire life. The information from the second interpretation would mean I should go to bed. Guess which one I try first?⁣ When I wake up and get going, I always feel much better. ⁣

I also want to be clear that I don’t mean all negative emotions can or should evaporate with a good night’s sleep. In fact, throughout my life, I’ve repeatedly seen that a “bad feeling” about situation is often the earliest indicator we get that something is profoundly not right and something important needs to change.⁣

Personally, I am practicing creating space after I notice my feelings to ask, “What information is this feeling telling me?” Sometimes, it’s just telling me to go to bed or eat something. Other times, it’s telling me to make a different kind of change. I am getting better at being more accurate, more quickly, which is a very good feeling. 

Emotions are information

Published by Emily P.G. Erickson

Emily P.G. Erickson is a writer with a master's degree in psychology. Her helpful, science-backed journalism and essays about mental health, mindfulness, and motherhood have appeared in The New York Times, WIRED, Romper, Elemental, and elsewhere. You can find the latest from Emily at www.emilypgerickson.com.

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