Definitions: Difference & Similarities Between Emotions, Feelings And Moods

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Definitions: Difference & Similarities Between Emotions, Feelings And Moods | Definition Of Emotions And Feelings And Moods, Similarities Between Emotions And Feelings And Moods, Difference Between Emotions And Feelings And Moods

Similarities Between Emotions And Feelings And Moods

Emotion is any conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a certain degree of pleasure or displeasure. Scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings and there is no consensus on a definition. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation.

Mood is an emotional state. In contrast to emotions, feelings, or affects, moods are less specific, less intense and less likely to be provoked or instantiated by a particular stimulus or event. Moods are typically described as having either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people usually talk about being in a good mood or a bad mood.

Feeling is the nominalization of the verb to feel. The word was first used in the English language to describe the physical sensation of touch through either experience or perception. The word is also used to describe experiences other than the physical sensation of touch, such as “a feeling of warmth” and of sentience in general. In Latin, sentire meant to feel, hear or smell. In psychology, the word is usually reserved for the conscious subjective experience of emotion.

The Difference Between Emotions And Feelings And Moods?

Emotions, feelings, and moods are closely related human experiences; however, they refer to specific psychological and physiological processes which are not exactly alike. I think it’s important to understand the difference between them in order to understand what’s going on.

One of the biggest differences between feelings, emotions, and moods is time. Emotions do not generally last long, feelings last longer, but moods may last a relatively long time and therefore greatly influence the quality of our lives. In fact depressive and bipolar disorders are disorders of the mood. Understanding this process, however, gives us great power because by knowing that our mood is highly influenced by our health, thinking, and environment, we can consciously take steps to improve those areas of our lives and thus improve our mood!

An emotion is a label for a process in which chemicals are released in our body and brain (limbic system) in response to a triggering event such as a perceived threat.  This physiological response takes very little time and is part of our natural alarm system.  Once triggered, the chemical reaction does not last long either—usually only a few seconds—unless it is perpetuated by feedback or repeated triggers (explored later).

feeling is a cognitive interpretation of an emotional state.  This interpretation takes more time than an emotion because it involves more of the brain (the cortex).  We have to think about the emotion and assign meaning to it.  The meaning we assign is what we call a feeling.  Because of this, feelings are very subjective things.  One trigger may elicit many different feelings in people depending on their life experiences and mental state.  Skydiving triggers the same physiological response (cascade of stimulating chemicals) in most healthy humans; however their subjective feelings may range from excitement, to fear, to boredom.  This is why you simply can’t argue with the way someone feels because there is no right or wrong feeling.

mood refers to a more pervasive, persistent, and generalized state.  A mood is not necessarily a response to a particular trigger, but a response to a constellation of internal and external factors.  Our environment—relationships, life and work situation, socioeconomic condition (poverty or affluence), climate (tropical or temperate), weather (sunny or rainy), season of the year, lighting, even colors—can affect our mood.  Our physical health (illness, injury, and trauma), nutrition and exercise, sleep hygiene, and hormonal changes can also affect our mood.  Our mental health (illness and trauma) and our cognitions (attention to thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and attitudes) are also a factor.  This is a “biopsychosocial” model of mood.  A particular mood may persist for days or weeks; even months.

Emotions are chemicals released in response to our interpretation of a specific trigger. It takes our brains about 1/4 second to identify the trigger, and about another 1/4 second to produce the chemicals. By the way, emotion chemicals are released throughout our bodies, not just in our brains, and they form a kind of feedback loop between our brains & bodies. They last for about six seconds – hence the name of our organization.

Feelings happen as we begin to integrate the emotion, to think about it, to “let it soak in.” In English, we use “feel” for both physical and emotional sensation — we can say we physically feel cold, but we can also emotionally feel cold. This is a clue to the meaning of “feeling,” it’s something we sense. Feelings are more “cognitively saturated” as the emotion chemicals are processed in our brains & bodies. Feelings are often fueled by a mix of emotions, and last for longer than emotions.

Moods are more generalized. They’re not tied to a specific incident, but a collection of inputs. Mood is heavily influenced by several factors: the environment (weather, lighting, people around us), physiology (what we’ve been eating, how we’ve been exercising, how healthy we are), and finally our mental state (where we’re focusing attention and our current emotions). Moods can last minutes, hours, probably even days.

Emotion is what happens in your brain. It is a neurological reaction to an event. Imagine that you have just walked into a crowded room. Standing there, looking at you is the person that you love most in the world. Imagine that you haven’t seen this person in ages, that you have missed them terribly and that now they are here, so happy to see you.

What happens first is emotion. Your brain releases dopamine and oxytocin and activates your emotions, neurologically.

What happens next is feeling…


Feeling is what happens in your body. As the dopamine and oxytocin hit your blood stream, every organ in your body reacts. Your heart beats faster, your pupils dilate, your breath catches in your throat and every cell in your body stands to attention in excitement.

You are now feeling your emotions through a physical sensation with every nerve in your body.


Mood is slightly different. Emotion and feelings are like the weather, frequently changing with daily events. Mood is like your climate, a long-term pattern that continues over a period of time. Genetic studies suggest that mood is often inheritable and that it is part of how we are made, with some people having a tendency to sit in a certain part of the emotional spectrum.

This is not modern thinking. Medieval Europeans talked about people being categorised as, amongst others, choleric (easily angered), sanguine (calm and cheerful), melancholy (sad and thoughtful) and phlegmatic (steady and diplomatic).

So while people generally have the same level of access to the whole range of human feelings, they can differ in the mood to which they naturally revert. But while no feeling is bad or wrong, mood can be unhealthy or distressing. A mood, such as generalized anxiety or stress, can also be the outcome of having an ongoing situation in your life that keeps triggering those particular feelings.


Emotion: Immediate physiological response to perceived stimulus. Chemicals released throughout our body that last about six seconds.

Feeling: The physical & mental sensations that arise as we internalize emotions. Feelings are cognitively saturated emotion chemicals.

Mood is a mix of feelings and emotions as we go through our days; a mood is a semi-persistent mental + physical + emotional state.

Emotions continuously regulate every living cell to adapt to emerging threats and opportunities. They provide raw data about the world around us that is essential to our functioning.

Feelings are how we begin to make meaning of emotion; they cause us to pay attention and react to the perceived threats or opportunities. We’re acting on emotional data.

Mood: Often the threats & opportunities that emotions and feelings signal are not just one-off; by having a lasting mood, we stay attuned to handle what’s next.



Similarities Between Emotions And Feelings And Moods?

The fact is, we have tremendous control over our emotions and are not helpless stimulus-response creatures that are powerless over our moods.

  • Simply recognizing that thinking influences emotions is a very important step on the road leading to a happier and healthier life.

Negative thoughts can be challenged and changed. This, in turn, leads to more positive feelings and emotions.

Brainwashing: (also known as mind controlmenticidecoercive persuasionthought controlthought reform, and re-education) is the concept that the human mind can be altered or controlled by certain psychological techniques. Brainwashing is said to reduce its subject’s ability to think critically or independently, to allow the introduction of new, unwanted thoughts and ideas into the subject’s mind, as well as to change his or her attitudes, values, and beliefs.

Emotion, Feeling, Mood Originates From The Mind: The mind is a set of cognitive faculties including  consciousness,  perception,  thinking, judgement, language and memory. It is usually defined as the faculty of an entity’s thoughts and consciousness. It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions.

There is a lengthy tradition in philosophy, religion, psychology, and cognitive science about what constitutes a mind and what are its distinguishing properties.

One open question regarding the nature of the mind is the mind–body problem, which investigates the relation of the mind to the physical brain and nervous system.[4] Older viewpoints included dualism and idealism, which considered the mind somehow non-physical.

Exploring Our Emotional Life: Therapy is basically about understanding ourselves and how we relate to our experiences in life.  In an effort to understand this related-ness, we often talk a lot about our emotions, feelings, and moods.  These terms can be confusing.  To add to the confusion, they may (erroneously) be used interchangeably.  When exploring our emotional life, the words we use are important, so I think it would be useful to explore these terms more in depth.



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