Emotional Regulation Explained

Emotions can get the best of everyone at times. We tend to lose control of our emotions during an argument, after a personal failure, or when we are concerned about a loved ones. If we leave our emotions unchecked, it can lead to regretful actions or words used in the heat of the moment. And it is not always our anger or sadness that has the ability to lead us to bad decisions, it can be happiness or excitement in certain contexts, if not regulated. Have you ever made a plan with someone based off being in an exceptionally good mood, only to realize the next day you have little interest in fulfilling your new obligation? This is where emotional regulation comes in.


What is emotional regulation?

Emotional regulation is our ability to respond to the current situation with the range of ‘appropriate’ emotions. This ability allows us to react to spontaneous emotions as needed. Emotional regulation is simply a mental health and behavioral technique that many of us already know how to use. Examples include: taking a walk or listening to music when you need to calm down. Or holding in laughter during a serious situation where others would potentially be offended.


What is the difference between emotions and moods?

Emotions are mental states associated with thoughts, feelings, and behavioral responses. They are usually directed at something specific and don’t always last long. It takes our brain half a second to identify an emotional trigger and release the chemicals needed to form an emotional reaction. On the other hand, moods are temporary states of mind or feeling. They are influenced by a collection of inputs and outside factors, such as the environment, physiology, thoughts, and our current emotions. While emotions usually last seconds or minutes, moods can last for hours or days.


How easy is it to regulate emotions?

Emotional regulation is different for every individual. Some people were raised with great coping skills when they were a child, while others had little or no behavioral guidance growing up. Regardless of your past, emotional regulation is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with practice. Meditation and breathing techniques are shown to be the most effective for self-awareness and regulation strategies.


Why is emotional regulation so important?

While emotional regulation is great for feeling better in the moment, strong emotional regulation skills also enhance long-term wellbeing. It can help improve performance at work, better personal relationships, and improve overall health. Regulating emotions is also shown to assist with problem solving, assertiveness, and being in less regrettable situations.

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