Higher emotional granularity has many other benefits for a satisfying life. In a collection of scientific studies, people who could distinguish finely among their unpleasant feelings — those “50 shades of feeling crappy” — were 30 percent more flexible when regulating their emotions, less likely to drink excessively when stressed, and less likely to retaliate aggressively against someone who has hurt them. For people who suffer from schizophrenia, those who exhibit higher emotional granularity report better relationships with family and friends, compared to those who exhibit lower granularity, and are better able to choose the correct action in social situations.
So, learn as many new words as possible. Read books outside of your comfort zone, or listen to thought-provoking audio content like National Public Radio. Don’t be satisfied with “happy”: seek out and use more specific words like “ecstatic,” “blissful” and “inspired.” Learn the difference between “discouraged” or “dejected,” versus the generic “sad.” And don’t limit yourself to words in your native language. Pick another language and seek out its concepts for which your language has no words, like the Dutch emotion of togetherness, gesellig, and the Greek feeling of major guilt, enohi. Each word is another invitation to construct your experiences in new ways.
Here are 7 more ways to master your emotions.