Isn’t it great when life’s highs can trigger a fantastic feeling of dancing hand-in-hand with euphoria?

But it’s not too brilliant when life’s lows cause a spiral into an emotional meltdown.

Getting to grips with our positive and negative emotions can help us to navigate all kinds of situations in a balanced way.

Understanding how our emotions impact us, those around us, and how we interact with our social world requires the skill of Emotional Regulation (ER).

The problem is, our emotional triggers are a complex web of feelings, perspective, contexts, past experiences, and physiological reactions. Managing reactions to situations that rock our emotional status quo is challenging.

For those who struggle to navigate their way around how they emotionally react to their own emotions and those of other people, it can be devastating.

This article discusses evidence-based theory to clarify definitions, suggest practical strategies, and provide links to useful worksheets and exercises to support the development of emotional regulation skills.

Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Emotional Intelligence Exercises for free. These science-based exercises will not only enhance your ability to understand and work with your emotions but will also give you the tools to foster the emotional intelligence of your clients, students, children, or employees.

You can download the free PDF here.

This article contains:

5 Ways to Express and Identify Emotions
Top 3 Emotional Intelligence Activities
Our Favorite Activities for Toddlers
8 Activities For Children and Students
Exercises for your Group Sessions
A Look at 4 Useful Activities for Autism Spectrum Disorder/Condition
Effective Emotion Communication: 5 Activities
3 Fun Artistic and Creative Exercises Emotional Intelligence Resources
A Take-Home Message

5 Ways to Express and Identify Emotions

In positive psychology, emotional health is seen as a ratio of positive and negative (Vacca, Bromley, Leyrer, Sprung & Homer, 2014). Emotional Regulation (ER) is the route to keeping closer to the positive side of emotional health where and when

Dvir et al. explain that ER is shaped within our cultures and anchored in our past experiences. So, what we see as positive emotions can vary within cultures. And, just to add to the complexities, emotional expression is mostly based on brain mapping, with junctures and signs that link to experiences or feelings, memories, other people’s reactions to us. (Immordino-Yang, Yang & Damasio, 2016)

In addition, we need to add gender to the mix. Girls externalized more positive emotions to others but internalized negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety. This research also found that boys showed more emotions to others until they reached adolescence (Chaplin & Aldao, 2013).

So, how we express our emotions isn’t just down to us. Let’s think about using situational, institutional, and dispositional factors to help figure out how to identify our role in how we express emotions, with these questions:

What is the situation we find ourselves in, and what is our previous emotional experience of that situation?
What role might work/school play in the emotional reaction?
And, is there anything within our temperament that influences our emotional reactions?

An excellent skill to develop is to look more closely at an incident, ask yourself these questions, and write down your responses in the second line:
Situation Symptom Solution
What happened, where, and when? How did you physically feel during your anger and afterward? What did you do afterward? What could you have done to have a healthier outcome for everyone?
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If writing your responses down isn’t too enticing, have a look at this idea of using coloring-in for gaining emotional recognition, definition, and clarity.

Also, here is another tool to help you identify the positive emotions that you feel each day.

Top 3 Emotional Intelligence Activities


Emotional Intelligence (EI) consists of emotion perception, emotion expression, emotion attention regulation, emotion understanding, emotion regulation of self, and emotion regulation of others (Elfenbein & MacCann, 2017). Let’s look at how we can build this skill through an exercise.

Have a go at these great tools from our Toolkit, such as The Emotion Meter, that will help with self-reflecting on Emotional Intelligence.

You can also test your level of EI with this 2-minute quiz.

Did you identify any Emotional Intelligence skills that you may need to tweak and others of which you are rightfully proud?

If you enjoyed these exercises, head on over to our article with additional Emotional Intelligence Tests and Assessments.

Our Favorite Activities for Toddlers

Oh, those toddler tantrums…

Keltner and Ekman (2015), psychologists who advised on the film Inside Out, about a young girl trying to find her way through a difficult time in her life, explain:

“… the truth is that emotions guide our perceptions of the world, our memories of the past and even our moral judgments of right and wrong, most typically in ways that enable effective responses to the current situation.”

However, that type of guidance is not much help for a 2-year-old. So, visual tools can be quite helpful here. You can make your own emotion flashcards, for example. Or, there are many on the market to buy.

You can also make or buy a chart to help support emotional regulation. This chart can be a rainbow or ladder with pictures of faces that include unhappy, angry, frustrated, confused, and happy. Show the emotion ladder to the toddler as an intervention tool between you, the toddler, and the meltdown, by focusing on what could help the pointer move to the happy face.

But toddlers will also watch and learn how they are expected to react emotionally from us, their adults. If their adults keep calm in an emotional situation, such as bad news, this can help a child learn not to panic too easily (Crespo, Trentacosta, Aikins, Wargo-Aikins, 2017). The converse is also true; a parent shouting, screaming, and thumping walls, teaches a child how to respond to stress or not getting their way.

Face-to-face chats with toddlers aren’t too successful for obvious reasons. So, flip it in favor of sitting together and drawing pictures, painting, coloring, reading stories, writing stories, watching children’s TV and films, and talking about the characters emotions.

Continued Tuesday

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