Name it to tame it

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By Canadian Mental Health Association, Supported by Kinesiologists 

Naming how we feel is good for us on so many levels.  Here are some tips for building your emotion-naming muscles. 

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Naming how we feel is good for us on so many levels (see “Understand your emotions, understand yourself”). Here are some tips for building your emotion-naming muscles:

  • Check in with yourself and come up with just the right words to describe what you are feeling. (See “7 ways to calm your inner world” for a step-by step exercise) Talk about your feelings. You’ve got them. We all do. And normalizing talking about them is good for everyone.
  • Carve out time to practice. For instance, Dr. Marc Brackett suggests an exercise: watch a movie with a friend. Discuss what the hero was feeling. How did you feel during the movie? How did you feel when it ended?
  • Get beyond pat answers when someone asks you how you are. Don’t settle for saying “I’m fine” or “I’m ok.” Chances are, if you investigate a little, you’ll see you’re feeling something more specific. Even if it’s “bored”. Bored is a feeling.
  • Social niceties aside, people may actually want to know how you really feel. So go ahead and make that assumption.#GetReal with them. Say it out loud, it will help you process it. Plus, sharing it will give the other person the chance to empathize and even help, if you need them to.
  • You can build your emotional vocabulary by searching lists of emotion words on the Internet. See our list here.
  • Write it down. When you express your feelings in writing, it can help you become more self-aware. Check out the Mood Meter from Dr. Marc Brackett and the folks at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. It will help you discover how nuanced your emotions are. Dr. Brackett provides an excellent introduction to using the Mood Meter here. You can also get the app.
  • If your emotions are overwhelming, persistent and/or are interfering with your daily functioning, it’s important to seek mental health support.


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