I love it when “soft” skills (emotional literacy) are confirmed by hard science. I recently discovered more brain research confirming EI principles and the benefits of “mindfulness” (a form of meditation).
David Creswell and Matthew D. Lieberman, from UCLA, conducted brain scans of adults. Their studies found that naming emotions decreases activity in the amygdala (the emotional sentinel of the brain) and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex.
This explains a lot!
When our amygdala is aroused, our body sends out chemicals and hormones that create our emotions. This happens so fast that we may act inappropriately and respond with a fight, flight, or freeze reaction—called an “amygdala hijack.” Conversely, the prefrontal area of the brain is associated with “executive functions,” i.e. the ability to manage emotions and make well-reasoned decisions. Naming emotions then, can calm us down and help us think more rationally. This may be why journaling or talking through our reactions with a friend is often very helpful. Such self-awareness and "affect labeling” is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence competencies.
The study also measured the impact of mindfulness and found that this practice creates the same effect. This isn’t surprising since mindfulness leads to recognizing all our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. When practicing mindfulness, I'm naming my emotions in each moment--“I’m feeling upset, now I’m feeling relaxed, etc.”
Even five minutes a day of this "being in the moment" can have profound effects on our health and well-being. During this holiday season, give it a try!
For an abstract of the original study seek link below. Lieberman MD, Eisenberger NI, Crockett MJ, et al. Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli Psychol Sci. 2007 May;18(5):421-8. [Abstract] © 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved