The Power of Emotions

How many emotions are there?

How can I manage my emotions?

Can emotions help you achieve your goals?

What is the relationship between our emotions, thoughts and behavior?

What is the relationship between bodily reactions and emotional experiences?


Why Emotions?

In the past year, I have made a conscious effort to “declutter” my social media channels, prioritizing Instagram.  I’ve deleted a good amount of restaurants, food accounts and meme pages with questionable content.  Although I love good “junk” Instagram and pictures of delicious mouth watering meals, I realized it was something I was constantly seeing, constantly feeding my brain (quite literally) craving and wanting to feed myself…everything I saw.  Literally and figuratively, our Instagrams and other media outlets “feed” our brain with imagery, information, and ads causing us to form thoughts and evoking emotions.  If we want to become whole, work towards our greatest potential and just show up as our best selves every day, it is important we find the connection between our mind and body.  Paying attention to our emotions will help us do just that, giving us mental strength, flexibility and overall helping us show up as our greater selves.

An emotion is personal, it is how we navigate matters or situations.  Emotions are a complex reaction pattern, experiences with three components: 1) a subjective experience 2) a physiological response and 3) a behavioral or expressive response (UWA Online).  As I dive into the wellness space, I understand that the emotional dimension of our lives is extremely important as it allows us to be aware of, accept and express our feelings and understand the feelings of others (Global Wellness Institute).

I decided to start following uplifting pages, accounts focused on fitness and healthier food options and actual recipes, health and wellness, accounts that make me feel good and inspired.  I don’t know that a “celebrity” I decided to follow is a prime example of a perfect role model of any of the topics I mentioned, but they certainly made an impact on me through their Instagram story, yep, Instagram.  I was watching said celebrity’s stories and saw that they were reading Manifest by Roxie Nafousi.  The bright orange hardcover book yelled for my attention and I gave in.  I finally ordered it, quick delivery from Amazon and am happy I did because little did I know it would be mind opening!

Nafousi mentions how our thoughts, emotions and behaviors impact the vibrational frequency we emit.  A positive mindset allows us to emit high vibrations that attract high vibrations in return.  On the other hand, a negative mindset causes us to emit low vibrations that attract more low vibrations.  High vibration frequency emotions include joy, gratitude, love, peace, acceptance and on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are low vibration frequency emotions such as anger, resentment, shame, worry, stress, lack, fear, argumentative. (Nafousi)

Emotional health is essential in helping us navigate day-to-day matters and larger life challenges, it is a skill.  Emotionally healthy individuals are in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  They have healthy relationships, are able to cope through challenges, reframe their perspectives and are aware of their emotions (Family Doctor).  Keeping that in mind, we’ll dive into the basics of emotions.

Core & Inhibitory Emotions

There are several theories, some that even date back centuries, on the number of emotions humans experience.  Basic or core emotions, which we’ll dive into shortly, are referenced in the Book of Rights, a first-century Chinese encyclopedia.  One of the more widely accepted theories of emotions and expression was developed by Paul Ekman which suggests there are six basic emotions – sadness, happiness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust (UWA). 

  • Core Emotions: Hard-wired into the middle part of our brain and originating from the limbic system, core emotions are associated with physical sensations we learn to associate as sad, happy, scared, angry, surprised, disgusted, aroused etc.  These emotions “tell us important information to help us thrive.” (Hendel)
    • The purpose of core emotions is to activate the body
    • The connection between our brain and bodily responses is possible via the Vagus nerve which connects the brain to the body
    • Each of the core emotions is programmed or “hard-wired” to be followed by certain sensations and impulses.  (i.e. fear causing someone to run or anger making the body want to fight)
    • If we aren’t aware of these core emotions and don’t process them accordingly, these impulses can lead to unwanted behaviors like lashing out (NAMI)
    • Core emotions cannot be controlled or prevented from happening as they evolved to help us survive, but we do have control on how to respond to core emotions in ways that can help us build and strengthen our emotional and mental health (NAMI)
  • Inhibitory Emotions: Shame, anxiety and guilt are the emotions that block the core ones we discussed earlier. Inhibitory emotions bury, block and squash core emotions, not allowing us to fully process them; in other words, suppressing them. An example of this might be hiding feelings of anger or sadness for fear of judgment. Instead, anxiety might show up, not allowing us to fully experience the underlying core emotions.  We have learned behavior (unconsciously) over time and use emotions such as shame and guilt to bury other core emotions.  The result of this is not being able to identify or properly process the underlying core emotion.  Feelings of depression and anxiety may result from the emotions that are being bottled up and stored in the body.  Some symptoms of being cut off from core emotions include but are not limited to 
    • 1) physical symptoms such as muscle tension, bowel problems and headaches
    • 2) low self-confidence
    • 3) difficulty communicating wants and needs and
    • 4) greater depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness (NAMI)

Now that we have a better understanding of what emotions are and have identified core and inhibitory emotions, we’ll explore their relationship with our bodies.  It is essential that we process our core emotions instead of blocking them with defensive reactions and inhibitory emotions as these core emotions create energy that should be released and not remain “stuck” in our bodies.   (Psychology Today).  It seems that the best practice we can apply to our daily lives is to recognize and acknowledge our emotions so that we fully tune into our minds, bodies and process them.  It is beneficial to our overall health to express our emotions, positive and negative, in a healthy manner.  Dismissing our emotions can cause emotional and physical symptoms – muscular tension, bowel problems, headaches – all of which I am trying to avoid and hope you feel the same!

Relationship Between Emotions & The Body

Several theories on emotions exist, the topic is multidimensional, there are still many questions and debates, but several studies and theories share key foundational concepts on emotion.   As mentioned above,  emotions are made up of three parts 1) subjective experience 2) physiological response and 3) behavioral response.  Let’s dive into each of these:

    • Subjective Experience – all emotions begin here, with a stimulus or an experience; despite how “big” or “small” the experience is, it can provoke emotion(s) in an individual; each individual may experience different emotions
    • Physiological Response – according to many psychologists, these responses may be responsible for how we as the human race have evolved and survived through history; the involuntary bodily responses we experience because of emotions are a direct result of our autonomic nervous system activating the flight or fight response (i.e. heart beating faster with fear, sweaty palms)
    • Behavioral Response – this is the actual expression of the emotion (i.e. smile, frown, laugh) and is largely dependent on the individual, their environment/upbringing and sociocultural norms

Emotions are experienced in the body, they are present to help us overcome challenges, to guide us through life and navigate our environment.  Emotions do this by adjusting the activation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) along with the cardiovascular (heart), skeletomuscular (skeleton & muscles), neuroendocrine (nerves and glands) systems of the body.  These feelings and bodily responses allow us to adjust our behavior and deal with our environment, whether a pleasurable or survival type of experience.  Below we’ll see bodily maps that show “different emotional states being associated with topographically distinct and culturally universal body sensations” (Nummenmaa et al., 2013):

Thoughts, Emotions & A Little Bit of Science

One of the larger debates on emotions is the sequence or the process of feeling a certain emotion.  However, as I continue reading through the literature, I think the most important part of the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, emotions and actions is that there is a relationship and being aware of it is the first step in hopefully managing and altering them for our greater good.   In the final stretch, I’ll address the relationship between our thoughts and emotions and how they can help us identify, work towards and achieve our goals.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

According to the CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) model, our “thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behavior are all connected, and what we think and do affects the way we feel” (Psychology Tools).  Cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) are a range of therapies that are based on this theory and are centered around changing problematic thought and behavior patterns.  Through these types of therapies, we are able to interpret the meanings of our experiences within different frameworks, possibly with a new perspective and reframing our previous perceptions.

The connection between our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, bodily responses and sensations give individuals the opportunity to examine certain areas of their lives, make changes or adjustments that will “cascade into changes in other areas.” (Psychology Tools).  It allows individuals to examine their beliefs and understandings of the world. Figure (above): Hot cross bun representing thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

Figure (above): How we interpret events determines how we feel about them.

We’ve just explored thoughts, emotions and behaviors through a cognitive behavioral lens.  Next we’ll take a look at how our thoughts and emotions affect physical matter through a quantum physics perspective.  The average person has 6,000 to upwards of 70,000 thoughts a day…it only makes sense to explore how to maximize and make sense of them!

Quantum Theory 

Quantum theory is based on everything in the universe being made of energy and we’ll explore this theory to show us how our thoughts may actually cause energy to become matter.  Manifestation is based on the quantum theory of physics which explains the behavior of energy at the atomic level.   According to quantum theory, practicing manifestation techniques and setting intentions can help individuals align their energy with the universe’s energy and tap into the gifts the universe already has to offer.  Ultimately, the belief is that those who practice these techniques can manifest new realities from the quantum field or “energy of the universe”.  Mental Help – Science of Manifestation

 “Our thoughts are electric; emotions are magnetic.  The brain & the heart work together creating an electromagnetic field.”  Several religions around the world (i.e. Buddhism, Hinduism, Daosim) teach that a physical world is manifested from the mind and is in line with the quantum physics theory (Weekly Wisdom Blog).  There are several quantum theory manifestation techniques including but not limited to journaling, meditation, visualization, affirmations, setting intentions & goals.  Mental Help – Science of Manifestation

The law of attraction, one of the better known manifestation practices, states that our reality can be affected by our beliefs.  Therefore, what a person thinks or feels, positive or negative, can determine their reality – “thoughts are energy atoms that can be manipulated to create a specific reality.” (Mental Help – Science of Manifestation)  ”The Law of Attraction explains that if we change our electromagnetic field (by changing our thoughts and emotions), then that will attract a new reality from the Quantum Field. The thought must match the feeling, and then we have to hold that state of being long enough for the manifestation to occur.” (Weekly Wisdom Blog)

Now that we understand the connection between our thoughts, emotions and our reality, we’ll break down how we can implement this knowledge for executing smaller daily tasks and larger goals.

Emotions & Goals

We all have or should have goals, big and small, they can have an impact even on our most difficult days.  Goals give us the opportunities to climb our highest mountains and emerge from the deepest caves.  Our environments, upbringings, beliefs, cultures and other factors have and continue to affect how we function daily and how we go about accomplishing those goals.  Despite challenges we might encounter as we work towards them, we must focus on what we can control and see the results in our lives as we implement manifestation practices and other relevant techniques.  Are you visualizing millions in your bank account, moving into a mini mansion in the suburbs and taking a trip to the Maldives?  Dream your wildest dreams…it would happen over night right? Of course not!  Below we dive deeper into how our minds can mold our realities.

Practicing the techniques I mention in this post can help us transform our thought patterns if we practice them daily.  Adjusting our thought patterns can lead us to instinctively take different actions, “actions towards manifesting a new reality.”  These techniques are not one size fits all, certainly they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.  However, these techniques can really help us practice as we try to look at life through an optimistic lens, stop negative thoughts, increase confidence and prevent self-doubt from interfering with our goals.  Mental Help – Science of Manifestation

Manifestation isn’t a magic trick, it takes the investment of you, the individual, to introduce yourself to new perspectives, take action, control your reality and most importantly believe in yourself.  Imagine a world filled with positive thoughts, emotions and actions – positive results?  I imagine there are also some “failures” that go along with following a more positive & happier road.  There will be ups and downs, the key is to continue looking up in the direction of your life’s dreams and desires.  This is a lot to remember, so the most important takeaways in understanding your emotions and how it relates to achieving your goals are the following:

  • Be nice to yourself, like really really nice to yourself
  • Be confident in yourself and see new doors open, don’t focus too much on the ones that close
  • Trust in the world, the universe, God (insert what feels right for you) and believe that what is yours will be
  • There is a ton of negative in the world, fill yourself and others with all the beautiful and positive things
  • Get to work on yourself – give yourself the compliments, take yourself on a walk, read the book you’ve been putting off, work on your skills & talents
  • Tune in – don’t forget the connection between your emotions and actions as they relate to accomplishing your goals
  • Cheer yourself on for accomplishments big and small (i.e. brushing your teeth, stretching, getting through a difficult day, career change, making a difficult decision, etc.)
  • Embrace the highs and lows, there are seasons to our lives and being the best version of yourself even in the lowest moments is an accomplishment in itself

Figure (below): Listening to Our Emotions During Goal Work (Fringe Professional Development)

Do the things you’ve always wanted to do because “whether you think you can or can’t, either way you are right.” (Henry Ford)

Emotional Awareness, Regulation & Management

Emotions play such an important role in how we behave and without them, life could become dull, dangerous and not in line with what we as a society would consider normal.  “Our emotions are what drive us – excitement, pleasure, even anger.”  Emotional awareness allows us to recognize our feelings, thoughts and emotions and in turn helps us shape our behavior.  Some healthy ways to tap into our emotions below: 

  1. Identify your emotional experience: What people, places or things evoke certain emotions? What are those emotions? Who or what makes you feel happy? Safe? Angry? Sad?
  2. Find purpose and meaning: Meaningful work, activities & hobbies
  3. Be mindful
  4. Be aware of your emotions & reactions
  5. Express your feelings in appropriate ways: a) Talk with friends, family, mentors & professionals b) Write down your thoughts, feelings, obstacles & solutions c) Cry it out (people may refrain from doing so because of feelings of guilt or shame) d) Release the tension by working out, screaming into a pillow, jumping up and down, stomping your feet e) Acknowledge positive and negative emotions are equally important
  6. Think before you act
  7. Manage stress
  8. Strive for balance
  9. Take care of your physical health
  10. Get quality sleep
  11. Reduce stress
  12. Build resilience
  13. Strengthen social connections, connect with others
  14. Cope with loss
  15. Stay positive

(Mental Health America)



Don’t neglect any dimension of your health, including your emotional health.  Your thoughts and emotions matter. How they affect your mind, body and those around you is even more important so be sure to tune into yourself.

Key Terms

  • Core Emotions: physical sensations that we come to recognize and name as a particular emotion and inform us about our environment – sadness, fear, anger, joy, excitement, sexual excitement and disgust
  • Emotions: “a complex reaction pattern, involving experiential, behavioral and physiological elements.” Emotions are how individuals deal with matters or situations they find personally significant. Emotional experiences have three components: a subjective experience, a physiological response and a behavioral or expressive response”
  • Emotional Health: a skill which allows one to be aware their emotions; emotionally healthy people experience emotions but are able to manage their emotions and better control their thoughts and behaviors
  • Feelings: the result of an emotion and may be influenced by memories, beliefs and other factors.
  • Inhibitory Emotions: emotions such as shame, guilt or anxiety block core emotions, suppressing them and not allow people to process the core emotions such as anger, fear, sadness
  • Mood: “any short-lived emotional state, usually of low intensity.” Moods differ from emotions because they lack stimuli and have no clear starting point”

Adriana is the newest addition to the Thrive Ahead Co. team. Her role focuses on marketing & outreach through various efforts including social media, community outreach, workshops and more. Adriana received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from DePaul University where she learned about community psychology, intervention & prevention programs, incarcerated populations & rehabilitation and more. She decided to pursue a different avenue and graduated with her Master’s in Business Administration from Roosevelt University and simultaneously became a licensed real estate broker. Adriana loves working at Thrive Ahead Co. because she is able to see and contribute to the back end operations and efforts of our therapy & wellness practitioners and is excited to share Thrive Ahead’s mission and services with the community. “Everyone deserves the basic tools to survive – for our mental & physical health. We’re all deserving of a peaceful & happy life.”  Take advantage of Thrive Ahead’s resources: schedule a consultation, read our past blogs and check out our events & workshops!


Psychology & Counseling News:

Global Wellness Institute:

Roxie Nafousi: Manifest

Family Doctor:

Hilary Jacobs Hendel:

National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI):

Psychology Today:

Nummenmaa et al. (2013):

Psychology Tools:

Mental Help:

Alex Chen:

Fringe Professional Development:

Mental Health America:



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