How to be happier 2: Name that emotion!

Winter is coming.

As we slide inexorably towards short days and long, cold nights, I’ve decided to do a little mini series on how to be a little happier. You got post 1 on Tuesday – a happy day in and of itself – and today is post 2. 

Image of a brain made up of emojis and words

Put your feelings into words, it will help you feel less overwhlemed by that emotion.

This is so simple it’s silly.

But first, let me ask you a question. Have you ever felt really, really worried? And you’ve felt alone? And it gets worse and worse, like you’re going around in circles?

Or how about sad? Something’s caused you to feel really sad, and you can’t seem to shake it off?

Name that emotion!

If you happen to feel awful — give it a name. Not like Fred or Sarah; I mean name that emotion.

Are you sad? Worried? Angry? Afraid?

Then own it. Acknowledge it, say to yourself, “You know what? I feel awful. I’m really frightened about this huge car repair bill.”

Again, I’m not trying to woo you: this is neuroscience. A bunch of scientists conducted an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) study called Putting Feelings into Words. The participants looked at photos of people with emotional facial expressions.

Each participant’s brain activated according to the emotions shown in the picture (mirror neurons, folks — it’s vital you understand them if you want to make people feel something…).

When the participants were asked to name that emotion, their own emotional brain activity reduced.

Simply put, when they consciously recognised the emotion, the impact reduced.

Giving your negative feelings a name is much more important than it sounds, because surpassing emotions isn’t just pointless it can actively damage you.

Trying not to feel something doesn’t work. You might put a mask on for the outside, but inside your limbic system is just as agitated as before — and sometimes it gets even more agitated.

Now I think about it, this makes total sense. Whenever I’m in a situation where I feel I can’t express a feeling, I often find it gets worse. I get more and more agitated. This is why.

So: next time you’re ambushed by your own brain and you feel something negative, take it out and have a good look at it. What is it? Label it. Describe that emotion as simply as you can and you should feel better.

If you have a bad case of Wednesdayitis, that’s okay. Give it a name, then eat your frog, and move on with your week!



PS Hostage negotiators use this labelling technique as part of their tactics. It’s a pretty powerful tool to bring out if you want people to take an action… in hostage situations or in marketing.

It’s all part of a persuasion sequence that draws people to you and builds trust – and it has nothing to do with deceit or manipulation. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you can make it part of your brand, part of who you are, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes when it comes to selling your goods and services. Struggling with where to start? I can help! You can Borrow My Brain over Skype for half an hour and ask me anything you want. What have you got to lose?


0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment