Do you feel red-faced when you're angry or embarrassed? Tight in the chest when you're anxious? Or butterflies in your stomach when you're in love?
It turns out our emotions are directly linked to sensations in specific parts of our bodies, according to a recent study by a team of Finnish researchers.
In five experiments, 700 online participants from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan were given outlines of a body and asked to color in the regions where they felt warmer or cooler in certain body parts in response to 13 emotions, including anger, fear, surprise, happiness and depression.
(Spend five minutes to take the test yourself.)
"When we first plotted the maps, it was like, wow, all the different emotions are so different," said Lauri Nummenmaa, one of the study's researchers and a professor at Aalta University in Finland.
The patterns that emerged were also consistent across the cultures. For example, most emotions corresponded to sensations in the chest and head. Anger made people feel more in the limbs, while sadness decreased what they felt in the limbs. Unlike other emotions, happiness made people feel sensations all over the body, according to the study, published Dec. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The findings apply to healthy individuals, but now the researchers are focused on how the mind-body link is established in people with mood disorders, Nummenmaa said. This could help diagnose different psychological conditions.
What does this mean for the average person? Do not overlook that gut feeling or the coldness in your feet because it could be a sign of your emotional state.
"We are feeling things with not just our brain but also our body, so our bodily cues may provide important indicators of our relationship with our environment," Nummenmaa said.
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