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Most everyone has heard of the old adages, “She wears her heart on her sleeve,” or “His face gave it away.” The sayings refer to how easily it is to “read” the emotions someone displays. Why is it that some people appear to be more “sensitive” and more apt to express their feelings more freely than others? Is there an advantage to being so “tuned-in” and emotionally aware?
There’s Truth to the Saying “Healthy Communication”
Effective communication of emotions and the ability to regulate them in socially appropriate manners is considered central for emotional intelligence (EI) and important for healthy relationships, both personal and professional. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
The ability to express emotions and deal with them constructively has been linked positively to health outcomes. Many are aware of the negative impacts of chronic stress on health; however, few may know that these effects can be mitigated by the ability to “Make Stress Your Friend.” Furthermore, there is a relationship to cardiovascular risk and how one deals with anger. (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
One recent cross-sectional study assessed 117 individuals in their final analysis to determine the relationship between the ability to enhance and suppress emotional expressions. This was based on film clips eliciting amusement, sadness, and anger. Their emotional expressivity scores were calculated and analyzed in connection to heart rate variability (a predictor of cardiovascular health and mortality risk) and symptom interference. The abstract states:
Findings suggest that the ability to regulate expressions of both sadness and joy is associated with health indices even when controlling for trait affect and potential confounds. The present findings offer early evidence that individual differences in the ability to regulate the outward expression of emotion may be relevant to health and suggest that expressive regulatory skills offer a novel avenue for research and intervention…
Skill in both expressing and suppressing facial expressions predicts better reported health.
What Determines the Ability to Effectively Express and Regulate Emotions?
There are various factors that have been studied regarding emotional expression and regulation. Many are found within the context of how genders differ in how they display their feelings. (13, 14, 15) There are three main theoretical models that attempt to explain the reasons for these variations.
- Biological (sex hormones, genetics, neural connections, and genetic predispositions)
- Social developmental (learning through modeling, teaching, and encouraging gender specific behavior)
- Social constructionists (interactions between the person and environment that is dynamic and constructed based on influences of the situation and context, including within the setting of cultural expectations.)
Most experts agree it is probably a combination of all of them that likely results in the means in which individuals will display and regulate their feelings. Other factors not included specifically in these models, but that may be significant, are personality traits, trauma, and maltreatment.
Optimizing Our EI
The good news is that knowing emotional regulation and processing is a combination of nature and nurture, we have the ability to optimize our emotional intelligence (EI). (13, 14, 15) Some methods used are self-awareness, self-care behaviors (movement, journaling, nurturing practices), the development of empathy, and practicing active listening.
Now, a recent study has provided another means to enhance our EI, and its right under our nose!!
Click here to read about how the sense of smell is connected to emotional health and how I use essential oils in my practice to optimize the regulation and processing of feelings with my clients.
Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)