Authors Torre and Lieberman first orient us on emotion regulation: Successful emotion regulation is often thought of as something that requires mental or physical effort. It works because it either actively changes how we view the challenging situation (reinterpreting) or creates space between us and the challenge so that it is less evocative (distancing). What is less expected, and yet is supported by a growing body of research, is that the simple and essentially effortless strategy of putting feelings into words — what is called “affect labeling,” can be an important way to regulate emotions.
The authors describe emotion regulation:
When an individual experiences an emotion, it elicits loosely connected responses across experiential, physiological, and behavioral domains. Emotion regulation is often defined as a manipulation of the quality, duration, or intensity of an emotion, that in turn changes outputs in these domains.
The authors report that regardless of the specific form affect labeling takes, research on affect labeling has demonstrated the same effects in the experiential, autonomic, neural, and behavioral domains as found in other forms of emotion regulation.
A caveat? The authors caution that our picture of how and why affect labeling works is at an early stage.
Words matter. Coaches can help clients, providers can help patients, leaders can help their teams, and we can all help ourselves reduce emotional reactivity with a simple step: translating the emotional experience into words.
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