Newsflash: We aren’t that different after all, regardless of our race and gender.
Think back the time you felt butterflies in your gut when you first met your sweetheart. Or the crazy nerves during a job interview. Or that terrible headache when you wake up with a hangover. Over 700 people from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan literally feel the same way as you do.
A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed the areas in our body we all feel with respect to the following 14 emotions, including basic emotions like love, happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and surprise.
For the study, which you can replicate on yourself here, each participant was given two blank silhouettes, then asked to think about one of the 14 emotions. They then paint areas of the body where they feel the stimulated on one silhouette, and areas where they feel deactivated on another.
While no two participants felt exactly the same way, study researchers averaged these self-reported maps and found patterns emerging out of these emotions.
“Our emotional system in the brain sends signals to the body so we can deal with our situation,” said study lead author Lauri Lummenmaa, a psychologist at Aalto University, to NPR. “Say you see a snake and you feel fear. Your nervous system increases oxygen to your muscles and raises your heart rate so you can deal with the threat. It’s an automated system. We don’t have to think about it.”
Amazing isn’t it, how the mind-body connection works? Keep in mind that the reverse is also true – strike a good posture, and you’ll feel more powerful.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it’s the whole upper half of our body that’s firing, and not the bottom half, whenever we’re typing angry Facebook statuses or tweeting hate messages. Maybe anger is so viral in the digital world because in the world we’re living in today, our upper half is virtually stimulated 24/7/365 by our tech-saturated environment. We work all day in desk jobs, play all day with our phablets, then come back to our couches too see what’s on TV. Back in the hunter-gatherer days, we require our whole mind, body, and spirit to be alert at all times just to survive, lest we become the feast of a tiger. So it’s natural that the immediate and increasingly automatic reaction to our day-to-day negative feelings of anger (and pretty much all other emotions) is to reach out for our gadgets and express those feelings.
Then again, this is all just my theory. Perhaps running, star jumps, head-to-toe massages, the sarvangasana poses, or just hugging your loved ones can help to tame that blazing upper half.