The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

Want a Simple Way To Calm Yourself?

I do this myself, instinctively.

Over the weekend, I read David Rock’s very interesting book, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long.

One strategy particularly struck me: if you’re feeling a negative emotion, you can work to reduce it by labeling it in one or two words. Note, however, that thinking or talking at length about the emotional state tends to intensify it — while simply observing and labeling it helps to quell it.

I do this myself, instinctively. I find myself thinking, “I’m overwhelmed” or “I’m frazzled” or “I’m feeling defensive” — and it’s odd how calming it is. Just putting a label on a feeling helps me to master it.

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For those who enjoy reading about what’s happening in their right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and elsewhere, Rock explains how brain function accounts for this phenomenon.

How about you? Have you ever tried a strategy like this — and did it work?

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Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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