How Emojis (Yes, Even the Poop One) Can Boost Your Emotional Health
July 17, 2018
Sometimes, putting our feelings into words can be difficult. It's hard enough to always know exactly how we're feeling and why (especially, say, after an episode of The Handmaid's Tale)—let alone explain it to a friend. Which is why on #WorldEmojiDay, we're giving props to the humble emoticon.
Those smiling faces 😊, fire symbols 🔥, and piles of poo 💩 may seem pretty innocent, but they also pack some mood-boosting power. Like an IRL shrug, smile or frown, they reveal how we feel to others, which helps improve communication and ease our emotional burdens.
Using emojis—like a face-palm emoji next to that “I’m doing OK” or a tiny image of an explosion after saying “I just nailed the presentation”—can help you add an emotional layer to your message, and it can help the person on the other side of that text get a better feel for your mental state without even having to ask.
“(Emojis) provide the nonverbal cues … that help us nuance and complement what we mean by our words,” writes language expert Vyv Evans, Ph.D..
Research shows that emoji use is steadily rising, with over 92 perecent of the world’s internet users using emoji regularly. And while a whopping 31 percent of all emoji sent are expressions of joy, the use of negative emoji has risen slightly in the past two years, reflecting a community that’s getting a little more comfortable with expressing negative emotions.
Don't Judge Your Bad Moods 😌
There are major benefits that come from owning up to our real feels—and not “pretending” to feel all heart-eyed emoji when we’re more in the poop emoji realm of things.
Performing joy or excitement when you feel the opposite can be seriously exhausting. Some experts even consider it a form of emotional labor. Like suppressing negative emotions in a workplace, sending a positive text when you’re feeling down can be draining and even trigger a sense of anxiety.
If you find yourself fake posi-texting when talking with friends or family, you may be engaging in what Adam Grant calls “surface acting”—joking and smiling when you’re feeling anything but happy. After a while, that kind of output can take a serious toll.
Embrace Your Poop Emoji-Worthy Moments 💩
The good, yet surprising, news: Embracing a bad mood can make it easier to handle. As Shine has explored, a University of California study found that those who were critical of their bad moods took on additional stress, while those who accepted their negative emotions went on to experience fewer emotional dives in the future, which lead to a stronger emotional resilience.
“People who accept (negative) emotions without judging or trying to change them are able to cope with their stress more successfully,” the study’s lead author, Brett Ford, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, told Berkeley News. “Acceptance represents somewhat of a paradox—it is effective at helping individuals change their emotions, and yet it is done without the intention to change emotions.”
Need another reason to embrace emoji use? A 2007 study found that naming emotions—identifying a mood as “angry” or “sad”—can lessen the experience of said emotions. The act of naming how you feel has a calming effect on the brain—which explains why venting about an annoyance or confiding in a therapist can feel so rewarding.
Give it a go by translating your emotions into emoji. Feeling free and inspired? Maybe that warrants a cartwheel emoji. Fighting with a friend? You might be in a weary emoji state. You can send them in a text to a pal, or just store them in a notes app on your phone.
As long as you’re articulating how you feel, you’ll reap the emotional benefits of emojis.
●︎ 🙈 = "This is my go to when I feel embarrassed or my way of saying 'I'm sorry/my bad.'" - Hannah H., Shine Squad
●︎ 😭 = "When something is so cute it’s overwhelming. (Like a cute dog on the street)." - Colleen Wormsley, Shine Growth Lead
●︎ 😜 = "When I'm feeling sassy or sexy." - Liz M., Shine Squad
●︎ 😍 = "When I’m feeling proud of a friend or excited about something!" - Christina Careaga, Shine Community Intern
●︎ 🙆🏽 = "When I’m excited/happy/nervocited." - Marah Lidey, Shine Co-Founder
●︎ 😑 = "When I’m frustrated." - Rowena W., Shine Squad
●︎ 💁🏾 = "When I'm being unapologetic about something or don't feel like dealing with it." - Mia Lavimoniere, Shine UX Designer