Acknowledge the purpose of emotions

Emotions play an important role in how we think and behave. They help us understand the world we live in. From an evolutionary perspective, emotions have evolved to protect us from danger and ensure the survival of our genes.1 Various evidence suggests that certain negative emotions can help us stay motivated and focused.2 However, this is a matter of individual differences.3  For instance, expectations and norms of cultures are also entangled in the way we feel and what emotions we can portray.4 Therefore, culture can play a role in the way individuals process emotions across cultures. However, the purpose of emotions remains the same.

Recognizing and understanding what feelings we are experiencing is a necessary component to achieving emotional health and well-being.

Professional self-care

The ability to reflect upon one’s own emotions has been shown to contribute to better mental health.5 This suggests that paying attention to the emotions that we experience will benefit our well-being in the long term. People generally want to feel good and they aspire to maintain such pleasant feelings.6 Being aware of what emotions we are currently experiencing can motivate us to repress negative emotions. Robust evidence indicates that experiencing positive emotions is associated with greater resilience in times of stress.7 Therefore, following the recommendations will help us cope with negative and savor positive emotions. This will help us achieve a healthy mental state and well-being.  

Tips and recommendations

1) Practice emotion regulation using the following tips:

  • A simple smile can enhance positive emotional experiences and help us cope with negative experiences. Research has shown that smiling when feeling low can also speed cardiovascular recovery after experiencing negative emotions for a prolonged period of time.8
  • Live in the here and now: bringing our attention to the present allows us to be in control of our thoughts and emotions that we experience. This requires us to pause that helps us consider the blessings in our lives. Such personal reflection can enhance our feelings of gratitude9 that in turn, increases our positive emotional experiences. 

2) Find positive meaning in negative events : trying to find positive meaning negative events can produce positive emotions and help us reduce stress. This can be achieved through the following ways:10 

  • Positive reappraisal: re-evaluate a negative event by drawing on positive emotions. This will help us find value in what has happened. 
  • Problem-focused coping: invest our energy into solving or managing the cause of distress.
  • Reinterpreting ordinary events with positive meaning: create a positive event in response to a negative event or reinterpret the event in a positive manner.
Build empathy

Build empathy

Empathy contributes to our subjective well-being. It is conceptualized as the ability to feel with another person and know his inner experience.1 Robust evidence suggests that those who systematically display kindness to others report higher levels of happiness.2

When a person is empathetic to others, others may in turn feel grateful towards them. Such bidirectional approach creates a feeling of connectedness with others. As a result, empathetic individuals are likely to experience more positive affect. Empathetic individuals may also obtain pleasure from doing something good for the society.3 This implies that empathy increases both subjective positive emotions and the execution of prosocial behaviours.

Such positive affect was found to be associated with many desirable outcomes including problem solving, longevity and reduced likelihood of dementia.4 Therefore, improving our empathy skills using various evidence-based techniques can support our well-being and overall mental health.

Tips and recommendations

The following empathy-focused tips can help us cultivate empathy and engage in empathetic happiness.5

  • Focus on self empathy: it is necessary to listen to our inner mental experiences and pay full attention to the sensations in the body. By regulating our attention to the present, we can observe our inner mental and physical events. Noticing and accepting the emotions (both positive and negative) that we experience can contribute to becoming more compassionate towards others.6
  • Accept others by who they are: we can focus more on positive characteristics in others by recognizing our inner thoughts, feelings and judgments. Let’s distance ourselves from any negative thoughts and accept others by who they are. This is the beauty of human kind.
  • Focus on accurate listening: we can achieve a broader awareness and openness to new insights just by listening to others. Accurate listening skills allow us to absorb the thoughts, feelings and personal meaning that every person possesses. This leads to a greater feeling of connectedness.7
  • Engage in perspective taking: we have to understand that everyone has a different story to share. It is always healthy to engage in perspective taking and look at the world through the other person’s eyes.

Embrace joy and humour

Humour and laughter are means to promote mental and physical health. This belief is also reflected in slogans i.e. “laughter is the best medicine.“1 Robust evidence suggests that humour can effectively moderate our mood and physiological response to stress.2 This implies that having a good sense of humour smoothes out the bump spots in the road of life and allows us to move on. It is recognized as an adaptive emotion regulation strategy that was found to be effective in coping with life’s difficulties.3

Embrace joy & humour

Humour can help us downregulate our negative emotions derived from negative and stressful events. Seeming that increased levels of stress can entail serious mental and physical health issues,4 applying humour in stressful situations can be an effective coping strategy to deal with stress. Finding the humour in life can boost our well-being and prevent us from negative health outcomes caused by prolonged stress. 

Tips and recommendations

The following tips can help you find humour in life.5 It is all about practice and accepting that everyone has a unique sense of humour. 

  • Surround yourself with humour: let’s immerse in humour when the opportunity arises and when it is appropriate. This includes exposing yourself to something that you particularly find funny. 
  • Cultivate a playful attitude within yourself: every great comedian has a playful attitude towards life. In fact, humour is a form of mental play which means. playing with ideas. This derives joy and fun. You can find a foundation of your sense of humour that is personal to you by cultivating a playful attitude within yourself. 
  • Laugh more often (laugh it out): don’t be afraid to express your emotions. Many of the health benefits come from the physical act of laughter. 
  • Express your sense of humour: accept that everyone has a different and unique sense of humour. In that respect, don’t be afraid to express your sense of humour. It does not necessarily have to involve memorizing and telling jokes. Just express yourself and your natural sense of humour.
  • Look for humour in everyday life: look on the bright side of life with humour. Humour is effective in managing stress. There are multiple opportunities for humour every day that we do not necessarily have to see. Let’s be open minded and attentive to these opportunities. 
  • Laugh at yourself: don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself in a light-hearted way. Thi requires realizing that everyone makes embarrassing mistakes. As a consequence, it will allow you to stop taking yourself too seriously. The best way to turn a negative event into a positive is to laugh about it.

Other evidence-based practices

  • Pay attention to your emotions.
  • Identify triggers and coping mechanisms.


Acknowledge the purpose of emotions
  1. Johnston, V. S. (1999). Why we feel: The science of human emotions. Perseus Publishing.
  2. Sindik, J. (2002). Negative motivation could also be the best motivation. In Proceedings Book, 3rd International scientific conference «Kinesiology New Perspectives», Opatija (pp. 785-788). 
  3. Matthews, G., & Campbell, S. E. (2009). Sustained performance under overload: personality and individual differences in stress and coping. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 10(5), 417-442. 
  4. Vaughn, L. (2019). Psychology and culture: Thinking, feeling and behaving in a global context. Routledge.
  5. Rieffe, C., & De Rooij, M. (2012). The longitudinal relationship between emotion awareness and internalising symptoms during late childhood. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 21(6), 349-356. 
  6. Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2007). Regulation of positive emotions: Emotion regulation strategies that promote resilience. Journal of happiness studies, 8(3), 311-333. 
  7. Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2007). Regulation of positive emotions: Emotion regulation strategies that promote resilience. Journal of happiness studies, 8(3), 311-333. 
  8. Fredrickson, B., & Levenson, R. W. (1998). Positive emotions speed recovery from the cardiovascular sequelae of negative emotions. Cognition & emotion, 12(2), 191-220.
  9. Emmons, R.A, & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389. 
  10. Folkman, S., & Moskowitz, J. T. (2000). Positive affect and the other side of coping. American psychologist, 55(6), 647
Build empathy
  1. Wei, M., Liao, K. Y. H., Ku, T. Y., & Shaffer, P. A. (2011). Attachment, self‐compassion, empathy, and subjective well‐being among college students and community adults. Journal of personality, 79(1), 191-221.
  2. Tkach, C. T. (2006). Unlocking the treasury of human kindness: Enduring im- provements in mood, happiness, and self-evaluations (Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Riverside, 2006). Dissertation Abstracts International, 67, 603.
  3. Wei, M., Liao, K. Y. H., Ku, T. Y., & Shaffer, P. A. (2011). Attachment, self‐compassion, empathy, and subjective well‐being among college students and community adults. Journal of personality, 79(1), 191-221. 
  4. Surguladze, S., & Bergen-Cico, D. (2020). Empathy in a broader context: development, mechanisms, remediation. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11.
  5. Niezink, L., & Rutsch, E. (2013). Empathy Circles: An instrument to practice empathy.
  6. Neff, K. D. (2011). Self‐compassion, self‐esteem, and well‐being. Social and personality psychology compass, 5(1), 1-12.
  7. Long, E. C. J., Angera, J. J., Carter, S. J., Nakamoto, M., & Kalso, M. (1999). Understanding the one you love: A longitudinal assessment of an empathy training program for couples in romantic relationships. Family Relations, 48, 235–348. 
Embrace joy and humour
  1. Tagalidou, N., Loderer, V., Distlberger, E., & Laireiter, A. R. (2018). Feasibility of a humor training to promote humor and decrease stress in a subclinical sample: A single-arm pilot study. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 577.
  2. Newman, M. G., & Stone, A. A. (1996). Does humor moderate the effects of experimentally-induced stress?. Annals of behavioral medicine, 18(2), 101-109.
  3. Ziv, A. (1988). Humor's role in married life. Humor: International Journal of Humor Research.
  4. Wiegner, L., Hange, D., Björkelund, C., & Ahlborg, G. (2015). Prevalence of perceived stress and associations to symptoms of exhaustion, depression and anxiety in a working age population seeking primary care-an observational study. BMC family practice, 16(1), 1-8.
  5. Ruch, W. F., Hofmann, J., Rusch, S., & Stolz, H. (2018). Training the sense of humor with the 7 Humor Habits Program and satisfaction with life. Humor, 31(2), 287-309.