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List of Emotions and Feelings

Emotions can be complicated. Read this list of emotions in order to understand more about your own emotions and feelings.

list of emotions

Article Contents

What are Emotions?

Emotions can sometimes be hard to deal with, but having feelings is one of the defining aspects of being a human. Feelings exist on a spectrum and can be divided into two categories of emotions: basic and complex emotions.
A list of basic human emotions includes sadness, fear, anger, disgust, contempt, joy, and surprise. Basic emotions are types of feelings that are pretty straightforward, and most of us can easily identify when we’re feeling these. Basic emotions psychology suggests we feel these emotions automatically without thinking much about them. Additionally, these emotions are called “basic” because they’re easily identified in facial expressions.1

Complex Emotions

Complex emotions, on the other hand, are a little more—well, complex. Complex emotions, like shame, grief, jealousy, embarrassment, and pride, involve more of a thought process. When someone is feeling embarrassed, for example, they may continue to feel that way after the source of embarrassment has already passed, unlike feeling a basic emotion of anger, which often is strongest in the moment and then fades.2

Additionally, complex emotions are often made up of multiple emotions. For example, fear, anger, and disgust often make up the emotion of hate.

Identifying Emotions

It’s important to familiarize yourself with these two categories of emotions so that you can better understand your own emotional experiences.

Basic Emotions

Here is a list of basic emotions:
  • Happiness
  • Sadness 
  • Fear 
  • Anger

Common Complex Emotions

Additionally, here are some more common complex emotions that people often feel:
  • Regret
  • Grief
  • Gratitude 
  • Guilt
  • Envy
  • Worry
  • Pride

Key Elements of Emotions

Basic emotion theory suggests three key parts make up our emotions, which include subjective experience, physiological response, and behavioral response.

Subjective Experience

All human emotions are triggered by a certain stimulus, whether it’s something positive like getting a compliment, or something negative like scraping your leg. Subjective experiences can also be large events, like getting married, or small occurrences, like seeing a pretty flower. Whatever the case may be, this experience is what begins the process of experiencing an emotion.

Physiological Response

The physiological response refers to the bodily responses that happen when someone is experiencing an emotion. For example, an embarrassed person may involuntarily blush, and someone feeling fear will feel their heart pounding. According to psychologists, these physiological responses to human feelings are what allowed us to evolve and survive throughout history.3

Behavioral Response

The behavioral response is the actual expression of the emotion. This can often be seen in facial expressions – a happy facial expression is almost universally recognized as a smile, while raised eyebrows and a slightly open mouth suggest surprise. Additionally, it can be easy to spot emotions expressed through the eyes: wide eyes can indicate fear or surprise, squinted eyes can indicate anger, and downcast eyes suggest shame or guilt.

What is the Difference Between Emotions and Feelings?

If you thought emotions and feelings were the same, you’re not alone. The two terms are used interchangeably, but they mean different things.
Emotions are sensations we can feel in the body, while feelings are influenced by those emotions, even though they are ultimately generated by our thoughts. Emotions are not always felt consciously, but feelings are. For example, the feeling of hunger is something you know you’re feeling, while experiencing the emotion of anger may be less obvious to you.

Key Distinguishing Factors

Additionally, emotions come first, then feelings generally follow. Emotions are chemical reactions that last a few seconds. Human feelings develop after you have time to think about and process emotions. It is thought that feelings last a short amount of time, while the range of emotions can be felt for longer periods of time.

How long it takes the body, or your mind, to regulate these emotions or feelings also has an impact. Feelings tend to come and go a bit quicker than emotions do.

Functions of Human Emotions and Feelings

Many people have thought at one point or another that they’d be more productive or content if they didn’t have so many emotions. But emotions are important and serve several purposes.

Adaptive Function

Emotions allow us to adapt to our surroundings, act quickly, and ultimately survive different situations.4

Social Function

Emotions allow us to connect with and understand others. Imagine how difficult it would be to have any close relationships if you had no emotions. It would be nearly impossible to truly connect with another person if you didn’t feel joy, excitement, entertainment, sympathy, or other emotions when you spent time with them.

Motivational Function

Having emotions can be motivating as well; for example, your anxiety about an upcoming deadline may motivate you to get started on your work, even if it also might elicit other negative emotions along the way.

While some of us may have different reactions to these common emotions, it’s likely that we experience these primary emotions on a regular basis. An emotion list for adults may vary compared to emotion lists for children, so keep in mind that the wheel of human emotions that we experience most often can change as we age.

What Influences Emotions?

There are many things that can influence the range of emotions we feel and how we react to them. If you surround yourself with negative people, you may notice yourself experiencing emotions of sadness or negativity. Other times, emotions are influenced by mental illnesses like depression or anxiety, which can cause a negative emotional state.
On the flip side, if you spend time doing things you love, take care of your health, and focus on staying positive, you may find yourself feeling happy more often.

Regulating and Maintaining Emotional Balance

Emotions can be difficult to maintain, and many people have trouble regulating their own emotions due to either mental illnesses, mood disorders, or other varying factors. Some medications can help with this, but it sometimes comes down to environmental factors and genetics as well. Doing things you enjoy and spending time with people you like are great steps towards helping your own emotional state.

Additional Factors that Influence Emotions

Other factors that can influence emotions include:
  • Cultural traditions and beliefs
  • Genetics
  • Physical conditions
  • Social conventions
  • Personality

What Are Some Ways Emotions Affect Your Health?

list of emotions
You may not realize your basic emotions can have a major impact on your health, but they definitely can, which is why it is important to manage your emotions as best as you can.
People whose predominant emotion is stress may experience a range of physical health problems. Chronic negative feelings can lead to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can ultimately lead to health problems like hormonal imbalances and a weakened immune system. Additionally, not managing a negative emotional state can lead you to rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, like smoking or drinking, in an attempt to regulate your mood or emotions.5
If you struggle with understanding or regulating your emotions, you’re not alone. It’s not always easy to manage emotions. However, there are some steps you can take to learn how to better handle different types of feelings, positive and negative.

Identify How You’re Feeling

You may avoid emotions of sadness, anger, or anxiety because they aren’t pleasant to experience. However, it is important to acknowledge how you’re feeling instead of pushing the negative feelings away. An expression of sadness is sometimes what’s needed in order to move past the feeling.

Determine if Your Emotions Are Helpful or Unhelpful

Common emotions like stress, fear, and worry can easily feel overwhelming. Sometimes, the best thing we can do to find relief from these emotions is to ask ourselves, “is feeling this way benefiting me in any way?” Usually, the answer is no. When you accept that fear or worry can’t change a situation, it’s easier to let go and relax.

Experiment With Healthy Coping Skills

If you are feeling emotional disappointment, regret, or other difficult emotions, sometimes they get worse if we try to cope with them with unhealthy habits, like drinking or self-sabotaging. Instead, try coping with negative emotions by journaling, exercising, or talking things out with a friend or family member.

Embrace How You’re Feeling

Fighting our feelings and emotions sometimes feels instinctual, especially when the feelings are difficult or painful. While this can be tempting, many people find that surrendering to emotions is actually what brings the most relief.

And remember, professional help is always available to you if you need it. Trained mental health professionals can give you one-on-one support to help you through hard times and develop healthier emotional patterns.

Find Out More About Emotions at Iris Healing®

Emotions don’t have to be scary. If you want to find out how to better connect with your different types of emotions, and ultimately improve your life, reach out to Iris Healing® today.

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