Feelings of stress, frustration, anxiety and anger are not good for us. Sure, you may be able to channel it into productive energy to get things done, but in most cases, it negatively affects our mood, cognitive clarity, and sleep, as well as straining areas of our health, like our immune system.1
When we feel these emotions bubble up inside us, we sometimes opt to vent them to someone else, whether that means sharing with a loved one or talking to a mental healthcare professional.
When done appropriately (i.e. not yelling or emotional dumping), positive venting with individuals who will calmly and empathetically listen can be healthy and beneficial. By discussing it in a controlled manner, people can find more clarity on the issue and are better prepared to work through the problem constructively. Ultimately, they can work towards a more positive solution rather than stewing in negative emotions.
But that’s not all. Sharing your feelings allows you to put them into words, making it easier to label them. Research indicates that labeling feelings rather than simply letting them be felt triggers a different part of our brain, reducing the activity in our amygdala.2 As your amygdala is the center of emotional responses,3 decreasing the activity can help you feel less overwhelmed by the situation.
Labeling feelings is a common exercise utilized by various individuals, like counselors, to help people manage feelings of stress, anxiety and anger. While talking can help, you can practice this by writing and labeling feelings in a journal. Eventually, you may reach a point where you can do it simply within your mind without needing a journal.
Acknowledging and labeling emotions as they pass through you is a part of mindfulness — a practice that has been around for a long time and the basis for various studies into emotional management.45 Mindfulness is about being aware of your current state of being and, in this case, mindful of one’s emotions.
Next time you are struggling with stressful emotions, take time to consider and label what they are.
- American Psychological Association. Stress effects on the body. Accessed March 2, 2023.
- ScienceDaily. Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects In The Brain. Accessed March 2, 2023.
- Britannica. Amygdala. Accessed March 2, 2023.
- Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Accessed March 2, 2023.
- Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Let it be: mindful acceptance down-regulates pain and negative emotion. Accessed March 2, 2023.