• Sarah Rossmiller LPC

Your Mind Speaks Through Your Body: Physiological Responses to Emotional States


Anyone else remember that cartoon with the wolf in the audience going totally ga-ga for the sexy performer lady? This image of the wolf is seared into my memory: He's whistling wildly, steam is coming out of his ears, his tongue falls out of his mouth and has to be rolled back up, his head turns into a train whistle, his eye pop way out of his head.... the guy is just bonkers for this woman. I thought it meant L-O-V-E as a kid, but of course I know better now - the wolf just had the good 'ol "hots" for her.

All those imaginative illustrations to communicate his feelings, that is where my interest lies. When you think about it, we have a lot of sayings meant to describe an emotion that relate to an experience someplace in our body or via physical sensation.

"I had butterflies in my stomach" may be used to describe nervousness. "My heart beat out of my chest" might be said when you're feeling scared. "I was walking on air" may explain a sense of deep contentment or even love. "I was seeing red" may describe a rage-filled state.

Being more in touch with your physiological sensations, or where in your body you feel it when you have an emotion, can help you gain better self and emotion awareness. Use your body as a clue.

Here are 3 of our most "basic" emotional states and a corresponding list of possible ways in which you may feel these physically. It's interesting how once you become more aware of these, you may notice in yourself or in others' body language or physical complaint signs of an emotional discomfort being neglected.

Joy (excitment, happiness, love)

Walking on cloud 9

Walking on air

Lightness in your step

Bouncing as you walk

Warm all over - "Sun shining on me"

Warm and full heart

Easy movements

Relaxed muscles

Even breathing and resting heart rate

Increased heart rate and fast breathing (excitement)


Clear vision

Fear (anxiety, nervousness)

Skin crawling

"Running around with your hair on fire"


Hair raised

Cold skin

Pale Skin

Butterflies in stomach

Shaking like a leaf

Tense muscles

Wide eyes (dilated pupils)

Sick to stomach (nausea)

Shivering or shaking

Scalp prickling


Lose control of bowels/bladder


Increased breath and heart rate

Tingly skin

Darting vision

Sadness (depression, disappointment)



Weighed down

Aching heart or chest


Empty stomach - sick stomach

Heavy, aching, or sore muscles

Slow moving, slow motion

Dragging feet

Slowed breath and heart rate

Difficulty swallowing

Looking down

Recent Posts

See All

Meditation: Let That Sh*t Go

I avoided meditation for the longest time because I thought I had to sit cross-legged with my hands in a mudra and clear my head of all thoughts. And for many this is what meditation looks like, but t