Body and Emotions

Published by: Jessica López Aparicio
Instructor and Coach, Co-founder of Habilidades Clave
If you were asked where emotions are found in the body, you might intuitively answer “in the heart”. And although the way we feel on an emotional level can have a great big impact on our heart health, we actually know that emotions are in our brain; specifically in the neocortex and the limbic system.

Neurologists have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate which elements of the brain’s anatomy explain and regulate our emotional responses. It is thanks to these contributions that the concept of emotional intelligence is respected in the scientific world.

Although we are not scientists, it could be said that all of us know what an emotion is because we have experienced them. At least in the experiential realm, we would be able to identify emotions (in a more difficult or easier way).

Emotions are closely associated with the body, because each one has a different physical manifestation. Moreover, the stimulus that originates our emotions is essentially perceived by one of the 5 senses.

Initial studies on this topic, in fact, were mostly focused on body responses. These studies concluded that there is a unique pattern of physiological activation for each emotion and that our perception of the stimulus and our bodily reactions are what generate the emotion. In other words, from our body reaction we interpret what we have perceived with our senses, and then the emotion arises.

Thus, the bodily response accompanies, moderates and determines the context of the emotion, but does not directly cause it. For example, emotions such as anger or fear cause a quickening of the pulse and a rise in body temperature, whereas joy or surprise produce different reactions.

This means that the body is an important key to being able to access the emotional states we desire; for example, if you feel sad, you can put a pencil on between your teeth and this will force you to “smile”.

Have you ever noticed that when you feel the urge to cry and you don’t want to do it, you unconsciously look up to avoid crying? Looking up automatically helps you feel a little better. It really works! And your body knows it… the hypothalamus is capable of releasing neuropeptides (molecules that act on the nervous system) that are sent to the cells to make us feel better.

It is thus not surprising then that Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, has shown through her research and experiments that adopting a certain body posture for periods of just 2 minutes, generates incredible hormonal changes, such as an increase in testosterone by 25%, reducing cortisol (stress hormone) by 10%, as well as increasing our willingness to take risks.

Video games, and all technology in general, also have an impact on our bodily responses. Changes in our posture when reacting to what is happening during the game dynamics can also induce modifications in the emotional states, or have a feedback role that visibly manifests those thoughts, motivations and affective states that are experienced… From the movements of the main character in the video, would you say that he has won or lost?

Emotions are an integral part of our lives, and if there’s one thing we can say about the nature of emotions in general, it is that they are not only mental but also physical. So, emotions are not disconnected from the body, and your body can become an ally when it comes to changing your emotionality.

Jessica López Aparicio
Instructor and Coach
Co-founder of Habilidades Clave



Body and Emotions

Emotions are closely associated with the body, because each one...