Feeling nervous or blue?

Have you ever caught yourself feeling sad or nervous for no particular reason? What do you do when you feel blue or anxious? Most people try to dig for the reason they are feeling sad or nervous, for example by asking themselves: “Am I sad because I made a mistake or didn’t pass my exam? Am I sad because I miss my loved ones or feel lonely?” or “Am I nervous because I have a lot to do and not enough time or because of the uncertainty of a situation?”

Have you noticed whether you’ve actually felt better after you’ve written down some of your thoughts or feelings or talked to someone about them?

A recent brain imaging study at UCLA has shown that “labeling emotions and talking about feelings makes us feel better”. According to this research “when you put feelings into words, you’re activating the prefrontal region of the brain and reducing the response in the amygdala.”  The amygdala is one of the regions of the brain, connected with our emotions and the fight and flight response while the prefrontal cortex has been associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences as well as processing emotions and inhibiting behavior. According to this research: “just as you hit the brake when you’re driving as you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses.”

According to the same study, “mindfulness” also activates the prefrontal cortex, reducing the emotional responses to sad or anxiety provoking thoughts.

Mindfulness is a technique in which one pays attention to his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations, such as breathing, without passing judgment or reacting. An individual simply releases his thoughts and “lets it go.”

“One way to practice mindfulness is to  pay attention to present-moment experiences and to label your emotions by saying, for example, ‘I’m feeling angry right now’ or ‘I’m feeling a lot of stress right now’ or ‘this is joy’ or whatever the emotion is,” said Creswell, lead author of the study at UCLA.

Therefore, if you’re feeling nervous or blue, you have a lot of options.  If you’re the type that can talk to someone (a therapist or a friend) about your thoughts and feelings, do so.  If you enjoy writing, use a journal to label all of your thoughts, and feelings.  And if don’t enjoy sharing your feelings with others or writing in a journal, you can always practice “mindfulness” by observing your thoughts and feelings and labeling them without judgment.