All emotions serve an important purpose. Our emotions are like messengers or signals telling us to pay attention to something as we journey through life. Ideally our emotions result in adaptation or learning. Emotions are therefore crucial to our survival – they break into our conscious thoughts and change our body, brain and mind for action. For simplicity, anger usually indicates a trespass and mobilises us to make things better or assert ourselves; fear indicates a dangerous threat to flee from or avoid; joy indicates a pleasurable delight that we need to repeat in order to feel positive; disgust or revulsion teach us what is unacceptable or unpleasant; and sadness means a loss to grieve and potentially replace. Nature is not sloppy- we have all our emotions because they are fundamental to our wellbeing. The trick is to acknowledge them, accept them, learn what is required and let them pass. However, deep unbearable sadness, severe anxiety, or rage that do not remit are not a small messages – they are toll bells alerting that a serious mental health issue may be present so get appropriate care. Extract adapted from Dr Gates’ book A brain for life’, due out July 2016 with ABC Books.