What is an emotional expression? Why is it important to express your feelings? What are the healthy ways of expressing your feelings? What happens when you do not express your emotions? Is it possible to learn how to express your feelings better? If you are looking for answers to these and more questions, this article is for you.
Hi. My name is Sean Galla, and I am a facilitator for online support groups for men, including emotional support groups. My work involves creating safe spaces where men can be free to talk and learn how to express their feelings positively. I know firsthand how helpful learning how to adequately express emotions can be for anyone’s emotional health, especially people living with emotional difficulties such as anxiety, anger, grief, depression, and low self-esteem. If you are looking for guidance to become better at communicating your feelings, this article is for you.
In this article, you will learn how to express your feelings positively and lead a more emotionally balanced life.
Table of Contents:
People and Emotions
For more than twenty years, the term emotional intelligence has been used by people and institutions to describe a person’s ability to express and handle their emotions while being able to interpret those of others. This level of self-awareness has been seen as a critical skill needed by everyone interested in leading a more emotionally balanced life.
Part of emotional intelligence involves being able to express own emotions, whether it is through body language, eye contact, facial expression, writing, or spoken word.
According to mental health experts, being able to express your feelings is beneficial to both mental and physical health and wellness. Numerous studies have linked repression of feelings to increased physical symptoms of stress, anxiety, ADHD, depression, and even substance abuse. On the other hand, research shows that being able to express your feelings can lead to better overall health for different clusters of people. In another study, people with a high life expectancy rate were better at expressing their basic emotions and had a more positive outlook on life.
Therefore, expressing your feelings can be said to have health benefits. In fact, being able to express one’s feelings is linked to well-being like a better adjustment to different stressors, better life satisfaction, and increased psychological resilience.
Generally, women find it easier to express their feelings than men. This is because society has long painted a picture of men as strong and stoic with no emotions. Even today, men find it hard to talk about their feelings for fear of being labeled weak or lesser men.
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Why Is It So Hard to Express Their Feelings?
Many things can make it hard for people to open up and express their feelings. This is closely related to your personality, how you relate to your feelings, and how you relate with others.
Sometimes the story you want to share as a way of expressing yourself may be linked to a big emotion, which makes most people hold back because some experiences are too traumatic or painful to express. Most people fail to express themselves to try not to burden the listener with their emotions. This makes it harder for them to share their feelings. Sometimes, trauma makes it difficult for people to understand or describe their feelings.
Attachment issues are closely linked to trauma. If someone suffered trauma in their past, it makes it hard for them to form healthy relationships with others, making it harder for them to be able to express their feelings. Not being able to create attachments to others makes it harder to trust people, which affects one’s ability to open up to people. These insecure attachments make people hesitant to express their feelings for fear of rejection or understanding in the wrong way.
In some cultures and families, even the social media culture, people are not allowed to be their authentic selves and are instead expected to fit a specific norm, making free expression difficult. This forces people to put up a front showing that they have it all together, as the person feels sharing their honest and uncomfortable thoughts and feelings do not seem appropriate.
Generally, studies show that people with extroverted personalities are generally more open about their feelings than introverted personalities. Highly social people are more comfortable sharing their feelings since they are naturally wired to be comfortable in situations requiring them to disclose information about themselves. If you are more reserved naturally, you may find it hard to express your emotions, even to people close to you.
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What Happens When You Do Not Express Your Feelings?
Different studies conducted over a few decades show that suppressing your feelings can negatively affect the mind and body. A 2013 study showed that people who bottled up their emotions have a 30% higher chance of premature death and a 70% increased chance of getting cancer. Other studies show that regulating or ignoring motions can cause short-term mental and physical reactions.
Suppressing feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, grief, or others can physically stress the body. Suppressing emotions over a more extended period increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Avoiding feelings can lead to memory issues, anxiety, aggression, and even depression.
Other side effects of suppressing your emotions include:
- Disrupted communication – hiding emotions prevents clear communication with the people in your life. This makes it harder to address conflict since you cannot work through your problems.
- A buildup of emotions – pretending your feelings do not exist does not make them disappear. Holding back your feelings actually intensifies them. For instance, suppressing anger only makes it build up and will eventually cause an anger outburst.
- Strained relationships – not being able to express your feelings causes issues in romantic and family relationships. When people feel that you hide your feelings, they find it hard to understand you, which causes conflict in relationships.
- Health risk factors – suppressing emotions increases your stress levels, which are linked to various health conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems, sleep issues, and diabetes.
How to Express Your Feelings in a Healthy Way
With all the negative issues linked to suppressing emotions, healthy emotional expression is important. Here are ways to facilitate better emotional expression.
Make use of positive talk
If you find that you always have a negative inner dialogue, it may be why you find it difficult to express your feelings healthily. You can start by replacing any negative inner dialogues with positive talk, as this will make it easier for you to express yourself to others positively.
Understand your triggers
Situations, people, and places can be strongly associated with past memories and traumas, making it hard to express emotions. If you often get emotionally blocked due to specific triggers, it is better to avoid them whenever possible or find healthy coping mechanisms to improve communication with others.
Accept your feelings
Part of the reason most people have a hard time expressing their negative feelings is that they have a hard time accepting them. It is essential to understand that having negative emotions is not wrong. What is mostly wrong is the behavior that follows whenever you have these feelings.
For instance, feeling angry is a natural human response to different situations. However, it is wrong to express this anger through violence. Acceptance is an important part of learning how to better express feelings and manage them in a constructive way.
Describe how you feel
Whenever you experience an emotion, you should describe it in journaling or through spoken words. This makes it easier for people to empathize with you and better understand your situation. You can sum up most feelings with single feeling words such as attacked, angry, happy, embarrassed, scared, hurt, or sad.
Practice expressing your feelings
The best way to learn how to express your feelings is through practice. While it may feel awkward initially, consistent practicing makes it easier. With time, it becomes a natural part of your everyday life.
When verbalizing your feelings, you also need to share your underlying feelings, not just the surface ones. While the surface emotions may be anger, the root cause can be embarrassment or hurt, which also needs addressing.
Join a support group
If you are finding it hard expressing your positive feelings or negative ones to your family members or loved ones for fear of judgment or being misunderstood, a support group can be a safe place to do this. An emotional support group is a safe space where people go to talk, share and express their feelings in a non-judgment environment and in the presence of people who understand.
If you are a man looking for a safe place for emotional expression, MensGroup is a men-only online support group where you can freely share your emotions and thoughts.
More about MensGroup
Men’s Group is an online emotional support group for men. If you are a man in need of emotional support, being part of a men-only community is one of the best ways to ensure you get personalized help for your needs.
This is a community of men dedicated to supporting each other through life’s challenges and changes. Being part of a men-only support group ensures that you get a free space to share, vent, and learn in a safe space without fear of judgment or being misunderstood.
The Bottom Line
To live a happy and complete life, it is essential to learn how to express your feelings. By following the tips highlighted in this article, you will have an easier time expressing yourself to the people around you. Emotional support groups like MensGroup offer a safe place for men to learn how to express their emotions and channel their feelings positively.
*Sources: 1. How to Crack the Code of Men’s Feelings 2. How men and fathers express emotions 3. Gender and Emotion Expression: A Developmental Contextual Perspective 4. Gender and emotional expression 5. Study Shows Men Still Feel Judged When They Talk About Their Feelings