Reprinted from the "Responding to Feelings" issue of Visions Journal, 2021, 16 (4), p. 4
How do you feel right now? Content? Bored? Confident? Grateful? Happy? Anxious? Amused? Hopeful? Or perhaps you’re experiencing more than one feeling at the same time. There’s no doubt about it. Feelings are complex. It seems that there are as many feelings as there are pages in a dictionary.
Many factors can affect our feelings, and feelings are often intertwined with things like mood, physical health, socio-cultural background, personality, current events, relationships with others, and more. Mental illnesses and substance use problems also directly impact our feelings and how we express them – so much so that it can be hard to separate the person from their health condition. Our feelings can also vary by degrees. We might feel a little sad some days, and really sad on other days. We can also approach the study of feelings in different ways – through history, sociology, psychology, neurobiology, genetics, theology, and so on.
Even though feelings affect all of our experiences and are part of the fabric of our daily lives, we don’t talk about them that often. We live in a society that often tells us to ignore our feelings – a society that often puts the word ‘emotional’ in a negative light. Some feelings, like joy or happiness, are more accepted than other feelings like anger, sadness, loneliness, or shame, which are often stigmatized. As a result, many people find it hard to recognize their own feelings, let alone address them or share their feelings with others. Yet, as human beings, feelings are part of what makes us human. We are social, emotional animals that thrive on connection.
In the following pages, you’ll read from a variety of contributors on feelings – some are professionals who work with feelings in their work, and others are people who themselves have found ways to manage their feelings or support themselves while supporting the feelings of others.
After the COVID-19 pandemic started, I began to keep a colour-coded mood tracker in my agenda planner. I use a yellow marker for happy, a blue marker for sad, and a purple one for when I feel stressed. It’s easy for me to focus on how I’m feeling in the moment and sometimes, I forget to take stock of how I’m doing in the long-term. This activity helps me keep track of my feelings and get a bigger picture of how I’m doing. After you read through this issue, I encourage you to spend a few moments to document your own feelings. Perhaps share them with a friend or loved one, or think about strategies to channel your emotions towards constructive action. I hope the stories in this issue provide you with some helpful perspectives on recognizing, managing, and becoming mindful of your own feelings.
About the author
Kamal Arora is Visions Editor and Leader of Health Promotion and Education at the Canadian Mental Health Association’s BC Division