Emotional Regulation Activities (7 Effective Tools)
This blog will introduce readers to eight effective activities that teach emotional regulation. Before we begin, we’ll deepen our understanding of what emotional regulation is. After that, we’ll explore these activities in more detail.
What are Emotional Regulation Activities?
Below is a list of activities you can try to learn how to regulate your emotions:
- Guess the Emotion
- Identifying Appropriate Responses
- Mood Charts & Mood Meters
- CBT Triangles
- 3-2-1 Grounding Technique
- What’s My Emotion Trying to Tell Me?
- Emotion Regulation Meditation
What is Emotional Regulation?
Emotional regulation is the ability to process or respond to your emotional needs at any given moment. It requires you to be able to feel a full range of emotions brought by internal or external stimuli.
In simple words, when something happens that elicits an emotional reaction in you, your ability to regulate your emotions allows you to choose how to respond optimally. So, for example, if you are feeling a negative emotion, emotional regulation will help you pick a context-appropriate response.
This response includes how you accept the emotion, understand it, express it, and communicate it. If you’re good at emotional regulation, you can choose to spontaneously react or delay your reaction based on what is good for you.
8 Emotional Regulation Activities
In this section, we will describe eight activities that can help you with emotional regulation. Some of these are group activities while others can be done individually.
Guess the Emotion
This is a fun activity to be played in a group setting. It will help build an awareness of how emotions manifest in behaviour. On slips of paper, write down the names of various emotions. For example, confused, delighted, surprised, worried, bored, etc.
Then, pass around a basket with the slips so each participant can randomly choose an emotion. They must not show their slip to anyone else. Going one by one, all participants have to act out their emotions using facial expressions and gestures (no words!)
The rest of the players must guess what emotion they are acting out. This activity helps people practice their facial expressions and body language, which further develops the ability to recognise their emotions.
Identifying Appropriate Responses
In this activity, you’ll need to set up a group discussion. Have all participants sit together in a circle so everyone is visible and audible. You will need to prepare two lists: one list of emotions and one list of contexts (locations and situations).
Examples of the latter include the workplace, with family, at a social gathering, a funeral, at a concert, etc. Cut the list into individual strips of paper for each item and place them in a bowl.
Pass the bowls along the circle and have one participant choose an emotion while another chooses a context. Then, discuss together what would be an appropriate way to express that emotion in the given setting. Encourage participants to share their opinions till everyone comes to a mutual conclusion.
Keeping a journal goes a long way in training one’s self for emotional regulation. It gives you a channel to express thoughts and feelings privately. Moreover, when you write them down, you get to look at them from a third-person perspective.
That way, you get to reassess what you’re feeling with a rational mind and choose how you want to proceed with the situation. It also lets you keep a track of your emotional reactions over time so you can monitor your progress.
Sometimes, it doesn’t even have to be so analytical. Simply finding words, scribbles, or doodles to represent the noise in your head can feel cathartic. Journaling is most effective when done regularly, even if it’s just one line a day.
Mood Charts & Mood Meters
Many people misunderstand mood charts and meters to be an activity for children. In reality, these are highly useful tools that can help anyone with emotional regulation, regardless of their age.
These charts provide you with a table to note down which emotion you are feeling at various times of the day. You can even use the meter to note down the intensity of each feeling. It’s like keeping a log of what you feel so you can build your awareness ad identify patterns.
Once you start noticing feelings that recur and the contexts that evoke them, you can start recognising your triggers, reactions, and predict them before they occur.
The CBT Triangle activity is a common practice used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, especially for mood disorders and thought disorders. The idea behind this activity is that every feeling is associated with a thought and a behaviour.
The triangles help you identify what these associated thoughts and behaviours are so that you develop more control over what you feel. To do this activity, draw a medium-sized triangle and label the corners with T, F, and B.
For every feeling (F) you have, write it down and then try to identify what thought (T) comes with it and what behaviour (B) you end up doing when you feel it. Once you’ve written down the three for quite a few triangles, start one with a feeling you want to feel. Then, work your way backward to instruct yourself what to think or what to do in order to feel it.
3-2-1 Grounding Technique
This is a super-effective grounding technique that will either make you feel less negative, neutral, or positive whenever you get overwhelmed by an emotion.
Take a moment to ground yourself by naming three things that you can see and what do they look like. Then name three things that you can hear (this might make you concentrate a bit). Finally, name three things that you can touch and describe what they feel like.
Take a deep breath.
Now, repeat the process for two new things you can see, hear, and touch. Take a deep breath.
At least, repeat the process for one new thing you can see, hear, and touch. Take a deep breath. By the time you’re done, you’re guaranteed to feel less overwhelmed. Keep doing this activity till you reach neutral.
What’s My Emotion Trying to Tell Me?
Emotions don’t land out of nowhere. They are messages being sent by our mind and body when they need to communicate with us. Positive emotions are trying to tell us that whatever we’re doing is good for us. We should keep doing it.
Negative emotions, on the other hand, are messages of change. They’re telling us that something needs to be different for us to feel better. If you want to regulate your emotions, you have to take them seriously and try to decipher the message.
For example, if you’re feeling annoyed about something minor, sit with the feeling and try to understand where this anger is coming from. Perhaps whatever annoyed you resembles something painful from your childhood and that’s why you overreacted.
Emotion Regulation Meditation
Another way to regulate intense emotions is to meditate. If you’re new to meditation, you can start by listening to audiotapes for guided meditation. In those, a voice instructs you step by step so that you can manage to deal with your emotions.
Typically, meditation requires you to create a mental scenario where you can collect all the strong emotions you’re feeling. Then, you can metaphorically release them so that even in reality you feel much lighter.
Meditation helps you acknowledge your feelings without needing to act on them impulsively. It takes practice but once you’re good at it, you can master emotional regulation.
This blog introduced readers to eight effective activities that teach emotional regulation. Before we began, we deepened our understanding of what emotional regulation is. After that, we explored these activities in more detail.
The emotional regulation activities listed here were Guess the Emotion, Identifying Appropriate Responses, Journalling, Mood Charts & Mood Meters, CBT Triangles, 3-2-1 Grounding Technique, What’s My Emotion Trying to Tell Me, and Emotion Regulation Meditation.
FAQs (Emotional Regulation Activities)
How can you teach kids emotional regulation?
Keep in mind the following strategies to help teach children how to regulate their emotions:
- Belly breathing
- Box breathing
- Stretching and yoga
- Mood charts
- Mood meters
- Games to build emotional intelligence
- Storytelling to build empathy
- Drawing out feelings
How do you recognize emotional triggers?
One can learn to recognise their emotional triggers by paying attention to what’s happening in their body. An increased heart rate, shorter breaths, tightened muscles, restlessness, an urge to cry, impulsiveness; are all signs of being triggered. Mindfulness is key in identifying one’s triggers.
What are the 3 areas that emotional well-being influences?
When someone has attained emotional well-being, they have a much easier time being in tune with their emotions. They’re able to handle them in a healthy way and focus on learning. Emotional well-being also influences your ability to be vulnerable; a key ingredient for trust in relationships. It’s also easier to be your authentic self when emotionally well.