Name your feelings to improve your ability to respond (not react) to your emotions

This technique is simple and powerful (and improves in its effectiveness the more you do it).

Name your feelings.

When you’re feeling angry, sad, upset, worried, or another emotion that is creating distress, take a moment to pause, take a deep breath, and name your emotion.

Take an extra beat and see if you can find specific words to define how you are feeling.

In doing this, you activate your brain in a healthy way that keeps you connected with your feeling (rather than pushing it down) but creates a bit of space between you and the feeling so you can evaluate it and choose how you want to respond, rather than just reacting.

After you’ve named your feeling, take a moment to ask yourself “What can I learn from this feeling” and explore the feeling a bit more.

The more you take this small step, the stronger your brain will become in learning how to respond and evaluate your feelings rather than simply reacting to them.

We have so many words to describe emotions, yet developing emotional granularity can take some practice. It can be enjoyable to check out a Feelings Wheel (see below) and even look up definitions of words that describe feelings/emotions to increase our understanding of these words.

Here is a copy of a Feelings Wheel to play with. The Feelings Wheel was originally developed by Dr. Gloria Willcox.

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Via Ornish Living & The Huffington Post: “A study conducted by UCLA professor of psychology, Matthew D. Lieberman, found that naming our feelings makes sadness, anger and pain less intense. According to Lieberman, when we feel angry we have increased activity in the part of the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is responsible for detecting fear and setting off a series of biological alarms and responses to protect the body from danger. When the angry feeling is labeled, Lieberman and researchers noted a decreased response in the amygdala and an increased activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is involved with inhibiting behavior and processing emotions. Lieberman explains it this way: “When you put feelings into words, you’re activating this prefrontal region and seeing a reduced response in the amygdala. In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light– when you put feelings into words you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses. As a result, a person may feel less angry or less sad.”

Dr. Ornish writes: “When you take time for your feelings, you become less stressed and you can think more clearly and creatively, making it easier to find constructive solutions.”

Image: Emotional Words Wheel via imgur

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