A study published recently in Emotion (June 2019) showed that expressing our feelings precisely protects us from developing depressive symptoms. It’s solidly established in the field of psychology that expressing our feelings is healthier than repressing or denying them.  It has also been empirically shown that following a traumatic event, talking to someone about the experience soon after, helps us recover faster and reduces the risk of developing anxiety and depression later on.

The recent study involved teenagers but its lessons can benefit everyone. It showed that teenagers who expressed their negative emotions in precise ways, were doing better psychologically (a year and half later) than those who used generic terms to describe how they felt. For example saying “I feel annoyed” or “I feel hurt” rather than simply saying “I feel bad”. The study showed that those who expressed their feeling using greater differentiation were better at managing their moods, and had a lower probability of developing depression following stressful life situations. Using less precise words to describe feelings was associated with higher risk for depressive symptoms following difficult life events.

What does this study tell us? Although the study involved teenagers, people of all ages can learn from it. Expressing our emotions is a life-long learning; we become better at it with attention and experience.

The key is LISTENING to ourselves, which means taking the time to tune within and through approximations – gradually – name the feeling we’re carrying.

We know when the words we use to describe the feeling “fit” because we feel a sense of relief.

The feelings we carry need to be acknowledged…  They’re part of us and naming them precisely is a form of respecting them. Some of us may be more verbally skilled at expressing themselves. But, everyone can improve their ability to tune within and name accurately their emotions – at least to themselves… This is a skill worth developing!