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How emotions influence your learning curve!



Let's be honest - we are first and foremost emotional beings and only secondarily act rationally. Our emotions determine how we react to situations, where we focus our attention and how we process information.


Neuroscience has proven that emotions significantly influence our cognitive functions, including decision-making and problem-solving skills, which shape our learning experiences.


In the following, we will show you how to regulate your emotions and thus improve learning processes. We will go into more detail about the different types of emotions, learn how emotions influence learning and show you how to use your emotions to your advantage.


But first of all, what exactly are emotions?


Emotions are physiological states that we experience when we are exposed to different stimuli. Each emotion usually triggers pleasure or discomfort. For example, happiness feels good, while sadness doesn’t.


In addition, some emotions can be shared collectively. For example, news of a big promotion can trigger positive feelings in all involved, and the passing of a loved one touches everyone affected.


The 8 basic emotions


Psychologist Robert Plutchik has defined eight basic emotions that he believes are experienced equally by all people:


😢 Sadness occurs when we experience a loss or disappointment

😡 Anger drives us to action when we are frustrated

🥺 Fear is our reaction to a real or imagined danger

😊 Joy occurs when we are grateful and experience things that please us

🤢 Disgust is our reaction to unpleasant things

😱 Surprise is experienced when we are startled or given unexpected information

🥳 Anticipation occurs when we expect a certain event or outcome

😌 Trust occurs when we feel safe and supported


Each emotion can be categorized as negative or positive depending on whether it is perceived as pleasant or unpleasant. All other emotions derive from these core emotions.


Sadness, fear, disgust and anger are usually categorized as negative because we do not feel good when we experience them.


Joy and confidence are always positive, and surprise and anticipation are situational. For example, most people feel positive surprise when they get a promotion and negative surprise when they get a fright. We feel positive anticipation before a festivity and negative anticipation before a difficult conversation.


How emotions influence learning


All our emotions can either enhance or weaken our ability to learn. Positive emotions can affect our learning curve in the following ways:


All our emotions can either enhance or weaken our ability to learn. Positive emotions can influence our learning curve in the following ways:


  • Creativity: When we feel safe, supported and satisfied, we are more likely to try new things and share our ideas with others.

  • Concentration: Happy hormones enjoyed in moderation improve cognitive function because we are not distracted by anxiety and worry.

  • Social success: Researchers studying the academic performance of adolescent students found that positive emotional experiences in the classroom promote healthy social interactions, faster learning and better intellectual abilities.

However, negative emotions can also affect our learning behavior:


  • Poor performance: Negative emotions can make us feel distracted and disinterested in our work. Over time, negative emotions can affect our ability to process information and develop long-term memory.

  • Conflict skills: Negative emotions alert us to the fact that there is a conflict to be resolved. For example, being frustrated about a problem can motivate us to learn how to solve it.

  • Health problems: Overwhelming negative emotions can disrupt healthy sleeping and eating habits. This leads to fatigue and makes it difficult to think clearly and process new information.


4 ways to use your emotions to enhance the learning process

It can feel overwhelming that emotions have an impact on your learning curve - but don't worry, you can learn how to regulate and use them to your advantage.

Here are 4 ways you can use your emotions to promote positive learning experiences:

1. Promote leadership skills


Leaders (managers, teachers, parents) often set the emotional tone of a situation. Therefore, good leadership skills usually include regulating emotions. For example, in order to succeed in confrontational situations such as dismissing an employee, one should be able to remain calm and regulate emotions such as frustration or anger.


Anyone in a leadership role who wants to promote collaboration, innovation and creativity should focus on emotion regulation, for example by developing the following skills: giving constructive positive as well as negative feedback or making tasks fun and entertaining.


2. Take a break from negative experiences


If a task is frustrating or unexciting, it is a good idea to change your motivation and perspective by taking a break and doing something that makes you happy. Physical activity can clear the mind and release happy hormones.


If you don't have time, try recalling a pleasant memory (e.g. overcoming a challenge in the past) to reduce frustration enough to tackle the task at hand.


3. Practice positive thinking


Negative feelings usually lead to negative thoughts and vice versa. It's a never-ending cycle - but positive thinking can help you break out of it.


The more negative thoughts you replace with positive ones, the more likely your feelings will improve. Strengthening this habit creates a mental tendency towards positivity.


Building on this, negative experiences are more likely to lead to positive self-talk than negative, which will encourage you to take on new - possibly disappointing - challenges and learn more quickly from your experiences.


4. Expressing gratitude


Gratitude is an important life skill. Feeling grateful improves mental well-being and makes us think more positively about ourselves. Studies have shown that 49% of workers who do not experience appreciation feel unable to perform their tasks and 48% stop striving to perform well at work.


You can encourage yourself to learn more and perform better by being grateful for every learning opportunity. On the other hand, leaders can promote excellence and a healthy learning environment by showing appreciation and acknowledging progress.

Overall, embrace every emotion!


While many people often categorize emotions as negative or positive, every emotion serves a purpose. For instance, disappointment reminds us that we really wanted something - we can use this to motivate us to try harder next time. Another example are feelings of happiness that make us feel more productive and efficient at work.


In general, it's nice to understand how emotions affect our learning. We can use this knowledge to improve our skills. But it also means that we have a responsibility to do the work necessary to make change happen.


In the long run, our efforts will pay off. We will be able to remember information better, improve our well-being and tackle problems in a more targeted way.


Would you like to work specifically on your emotion regulation? Then register now completely free of charge for your first 30-minute whylab group coaching session and exchange ideas on this topic with like-minded people! Click here to register. 💙