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.
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?
I got a big kick from seeing The Happiness Project make an appearance in Dan Zevin's hilarious piece in the New York Times Sunday Review, on The Dow Jones Emotional Average. "The Dow feels better about itself today after it stayed up all night reading 'The Happiness Project.'"