Disney’s film Inside Out (2015) takes place in the head of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, with five personified emotions– Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. These emotions guide Riley through life as she and her parents adjust to their new surroundings after moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. Inside Out has inspired viewers young and old to look inside their own minds, teaching us all about the power of emotion. Here are five lessons about identifying your emotions and how to cope with them.
1. You have the power to influence your emotions.
Although emotions may influence how we feel, they don’t always have to have the final say. Your emotions do not have control over you unless you let them. If you choose to start the day off with a positive attitude by saying, “Today will be a good day,” then it will. It’s all about your outlook on life. As Joy, one of the emotions in Inside Out says, “All right everyone, fresh start! We’re gonna have a good day, which will turn into a good week, which will turn into a good year, which will turn into a life!”
2. You can be reactive to other people’s emotions.
Have you ever been around someone who was angry or frustrated and then started to feel the same way yourself? This is because emotions can be contagious. Just as our own emotions can control us (if we let them), so can other people’s emotions. Try to surround yourself with uplifting people as often as you can. It’s likely that their positive attitudes will rub off on you and vice versa.
3. All your emotions are useful.
Tough emotions like sadness, fear and anger can be uncomfortable for people to experience– which is why many of us go to great lengths to avoid them. However, our emotions serve an important purpose. They provide valuable insight into how we are feeling. For instance, if you keep feeling the same emotion, whether it be frustration, anger or hurt, it may be an indication that something is wrong. Listen to your emotions and respond accordingly.
4. Don’t bottle up your emotions, embrace them.
Emotions make us who we are. Without them, life would not be as colorful or complete. This is why you should embrace them, rather than bottle them up. In a pivotal moment of Inside Out, the main character Riley chooses to embrace her emotions, rather than run from them. She allows herself to feel sadness, fear, and anger about her idea of running away from home. As a result, Riley decides not to go through with her plan. This choice reunites Riley with her family, giving her a deeper sense of happiness in the comfort she seeks from her parents, even though it’s mixed with sadness and fear.
When you start to feel caught up in emotion, take the time to mindfully observe them. Check in with yourself. How are you feeling? Why do you feel this way? Create the space for yourself to choose a healthy response. Talk to someone about how you are feeling and seek help when you need it.
Do you need help navigating your emotions and deciding how to best respond? Try this Mental Health Checklist:
- How am I feeling (physically and mentally)?
- Have I been thinking kind thoughts to myself?
- When did I last talk to someone about my feelings?
- When did I last eat a whole meal?
- When did I last drink water?
- When did I last breathe deeply?
- Have I spent time outside in fresh air?
- When did I last take a shower (or bath)?
- How long have I spent on my phone or computer today?
- Am I getting enough sleep?
- When did I last do a kind thing for someone else?
- What can I do that will bring me joy?