How do you feel? Or what do you feel?

Ivan Pavlov, the Russian psychologist, proposed the idea of the ‘conditional reflex’ at the end of the 19th century, when he demonstrated that dogs who were given food while a bell was ringing would eventually salivate at the sound of the bell alone, even when no food was actually present.


Apropos of nothing I wondered, as you do, what breed of dog Pavlov ‘recruited’ for his experiments. Clever as Google is, it seems there’s no record of this – apparently he simply used indeterminate breeds.

Now I’m not sure about salivating when a bell rings (unless the ping of the microwave counts), but I reckon we probably all experience other forms of conditional reflexes, among them that old chestnut of answering ‘Fine’ or ‘Good’ when someone asks how we are.

How do you feel? Fine.

Or Good.

You probably just say it, however you actually feel. In fact it probably becomes such a conditioned response that it’s hard to even ask the question of yourself. How do I feel? Er, fine?

Here’s a little suggestion, though. Change just one word in the question and your internal response may prove more helpful.

Instead of ‘how do I feel’ ask yourself ‘what do I feel’.

It’s different, isn’t it? Not so easy to answer, either, I suggest.

Knowing what you feel is a good way to truly get to how you feel. So why not try this today? Change ‘how’ to ‘what’.

See where your thoughts take you.

5 thoughts on “How do you feel? Or what do you feel?

  1. Every time I go to the doctor he says ‘How are you?’ – I have to stop myself saying ‘Fine, thanks.’ Oh dear!

  2. Strong and simple Jon! No! Not how I feel (although that is also, probably true) but another simple truth from Moodnudges – when we know what we feel we are “present”

  3. The power of a single word! Makes all the difference, like when folk ask you ‘What do you do’ and expect you to tell them about the job you have as if that defines you. How about asking me ‘Who are you in your life?’ Now that opens up a real Pandora’s Box!!

  4. So simple but yet so effective. By changing just one word we can get much more information about ourselves and others. As Ian says ‘the power of a single word!

  5. This is so true, have just done this exercise and have come to a much better understanding of my present headspace

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