Dear Sophia,

You’re stuck inside on a rainy day when all of a sudden you start to feel a bit bored. Maybe you aren’t sure what to do with the feeling. Maybe you decide to read a book or bake some cookies and the feeling starts to fade.

Perhaps you then start feeling happiness from doing an activity you love. You know, pretty much everyone experiences a variety of different feelings every day.

My friend Elizabeth Weybright, an associate professor of human development at Washington State University, is really curious about emotions, especially boredom.

She said that while we may have all kinds of feelings, they serve a similar purpose.

“Feelings are really there to help us communicate to ourselves and to communicate things to others,” she said.

Some emotions, like fear, were really helpful back in the days when your human ancestors were faced with real danger like saber-tooth cats or other predators.

This feeling of fear can help signal when we might be in danger. We might even be able to communicate that feeling to those around us, so they can stay safe, too.

Weybright also reminded me that there aren’t exactly bad or good emotions. Even if something like fear or boredom might not feel very good, they can have some benefits.

Boredom might inspire you to use creativity, for example. Meanwhile, love is an emotion that can help us feel connected others. But even if you feel love, it can sometimes come with some sadness.

Imagine you live very far from your grandparents or other family that you love. You might miss them and feel sad if you don’t get to see them very often.

While we might have different emotions, you can see how they sometimes have strong connections to one another. It’s also a reminder you can have multiple feelings at a time.

Weybright also reminded me that some people might struggle with expressing feelings. They might also need some help understanding other people’s feelings. After all, humans aren’t just born knowing all these different emotions. They have to learn about these feelings as they grow up.

She also said sometimes parents, caregivers, teachers and coaches can work together with children to help them learn more about these big feelings. That way when a big feeling like boredom, sadness, love or happiness comes up, you can be prepared to observe it.

It’s also great to know there are scientists in our world who are studying more about how emotions work, which may also help people better understand their fellow human beings.

Finally, just remember that feelings are a big part of what helps people communicate. Feelings may come and go, but it’s okay to feel them all.

Oh, and if you’re ever feeling bored, you might just investigate a good science question. Chances are it will open up a whole new set of questions to explore.

Dr. Universe