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Name it to Tame it

How many emotions can you name?

According to Brene Brown, an acclaimed researcher and author, the average number of emotions people talk about and label is… three. (Happy, Sad, Angry)

Since you’re reading this message, we’ll assume you are above average and can name at least twice that!

Why does this matter? Not being able to accurately express how you are feeling can be really problematic. After all, language is how we create meaning, connect with others, learn, express ourselves and have self-awareness.

“Without accurate language, we struggle to get the help we need, we don’t always regulate or manage our emotions and experiences in a way that allows us to move through them productively, and our self-awareness is diminished.”


Fortunately, improving this scenario is fairly simple… you just need to expand your emotional vocabulary.

Research tells us that the simple act of labeling emotions can help us feel calmer. When we name the emotion we are experiencing, something amazing happens inside the brain. Brain imaging studies show that when we are experiencing heightened emotions, labeling those emotions activates the prefrontal cortex (the thinking brain) and reduces the activity in the amygdala (the feeling brain). Which means naming emotions decreases our emotional reactivity – it puts the “brakes” on our big emotional reactions and helps us feel calmer.

In addition to feeling calmer in the moment, you will be able to better manage the ups and downs of life and more accurately communicate your needs, get support from others, and recognize others’ emotions as well.

Below is one of my favorite resources to expand emotional recognition and vocabulary. I’ve used it as a discussion tool with clients, my kids and even friends. This week make an effort to tune in to your body and label your emotions. I'd love to hear if you notice a difference in intensity or duration.

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