MindSG

Explore our suite of self-care tips and tools designed to help you achieve better mental well-being.

What are emotions
and why do we feel them?

We all experience emotions as a normal and important part of our lives.

Emotions are information.

They help us know how to respond appropriately to circumstances we're in and frame what we make of the situation.

It's normal to feel
all kinds of emotions.

All emotions have their functions.
These functions allow us, to survive and avoid dangers.

6 basic emotions

There is a wide spectrum of emotions. However, there are generally 6 basic emotions, which are universally experienced:

Anger
An emotional state leading to feelings of hostility and frustration
Disgust
A strong emotion that results in the feeling of being repulsed
Fear
A primal emotion that is important to survival and triggers a fight or flight response
Happiness
A pleasant emotional state that elicits feelings of joy, contentment and satisfaction
Sadness
An emotional state characterised by feelings of disappointment, grief, or hopelessness
Surprise
A brief emotional state, either positive or negative, following something unexpected

Why is it important to understand and manage our emotions?

Although emotions are an instinctive and natural thing, it can sometimes be intense and overwhelming. That’s why we can all benefit from understanding and managing our emotions healthily.

Managing our emotions helps us make better decisions, big or small.
Understanding our emotions allows us to become aware of triggers, so we can gain insights on how to respond in constructive ways.
Accepting our emotions allows us to view our thoughts and perspectives objectively, instead of defaulting to making negative judgements about ourselves and others.

Watch this video to see why it’s important to acknowledge and manage our emotions as they arise.


How do we manage our emotions?


  • Practice noticing and identifying your emotions by using the feelings tracker to identify how you are feeling.
  • Avoid brushing away or pretending not to have certain emotions as you might get overwhelmed and become less effective at managing them. Your feelings are there to help you make sense of what’s going on!
  • Check in with your body too. You may also feel some body sensations with certain emotions – perhaps your face gets hot and muscles tense up.

  • Accept all your emotions as natural and not something to avoid. Seek to understand and figure out what happened that got you feeling this way.
  • Our emotions can be elicited from many things. It could be events, situations, or even our own thoughts or memories.
  • Knowing what brought about that feeling and why you felt that way would also make it easier for you to have a better grasp and assess on how best to manage your feelings.

  • Consider whether things are really as bad as they seem. Sometimes, unhelpful thinking patterns may magnify the negativity of the situation. For example, you may overgeneralise and think, “I have failed once, I will fail for sure again”.
  • When you have such negative thoughts, you can use My Positivity Guide to reframe such thoughts by focusing on the good things around you.
  • Shred away these unhelpful thinking patterns using the Emotions Explorer.
  • Think about the best way to express your emotion or regulate it, so you can feel better. For example, would it feel more conducive to gently confront someone or work off the feeling by going for a run?

  • Consider doing more of what you enjoy such as spending time in nature, listening to music, or even sleeping. You can also try exercising as it has mood-boosting effects and relieves stress.
  • Learn relaxation skills such as:
    • Pick up deep breathing exercises where you practise the action of breathing deeply, as a method of relaxation;
    • Practice progressive muscle relaxation where you tense a group of muscles as you breathe in and relax them as you breathe out;
    • Use guided imagery where for example you imagine yourself at the beach feeling the warm breeze on your skin;
    • Or consider mindfulness meditation where you slow down your racing thoughts and be aware of your body and mind.

How do I talk about my emotions?

Talking to others about your emotions can also help you explore new perspectives and understand your thinking patterns.

A friend, parent, relative, or colleague can be people we can talk to. For a start, we can go to the person we feel we can trust and say, “Can we talk for a minute? I have something to share”. We can then say how we feel and why. You may be surprised that someone can help you feel better and assure you that you are not alone.

You don’t have to wait for your problems to be big or have a special time to talk about it. It’s good to practise talking about your problems as it allows you to notice them.

You don’t have to talk about every feeling you have but noticing your feelings and saying how you feel and why is good practice and a healthy way to express them. It is also okay to not know why we are feeling certain feelings. We can still say something like “I feel angry but I don’t know why”.

The more you talk about it, the easier it gets. It not only helps you understand yourself but also increases the connection between you and the people that matter to you.

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