Emotions are the great captains of our lives. We get carried away by them and make decisions under their influence. We imbue ourselves with happiness and misery. Anger pushes us and apathy stops us.
In fact, emotions are activated long before thought, so they often act as indicators or warning signs. However, when emotions take over, an emotional hijacking can occur that pushes us down wrong paths. For that reason, emotional self-regulation is one of the most important skills we can learn. Maintaining a constant dialogue with our emotions will not only heal us, but will help us make better decisions to build the life we want. To achieve this we can use a Mood Meter.
What is the Mood Meter and what is it for?
Psychologist Marc Brackett, founder of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, has developed a tool based on scientific evidence to develop Emotional Intelligence through self-awareness and self-regulation. This psychological tool is a Mood Meter and it is as effective in children as in adults.
The Mood Meter is a technique that is used in the RULER method, but it can also be used individually to represent emotions. Basically, it is a colorful grid that measures the level of energy and pleasure that a feeling generates, to give us the “coordinates” of our current emotional state.
In practice, Brackett follows the Taoist idea that feelings are neither positive nor negative, but are part of a continuum that gives us pleasure or displeasure. In addition, each emotion and feeling is associated with a certain psychological energy, which can motivate us or, on the contrary, discourage activity. These combinations give rise to four quite distinct zones, each of which represents a group of emotions that have similar levels of energy and pleasure.
The 4 zones of the Mood Meter
Just like when we are traveling, when it comes to emotions it is essential to know where we are in order to chart the trajectory that will take us where we want to go. Locating our affective state on the Mood Meter gives us a clear starting point from which we can design a road hour focused on mental health care. To do this, we must know the 4 areas of the Mood Meter:
1. Yellow Zone (high energy, high likeability): pleasant, happy, joyful, hopeful, focused, optimistic, proud, light-hearted, lively, playful, excited, inspired, etc. In this quadrant we are attentive and committed.
2. Green Zone (low energy, a lot of sympathy): at ease, calm, tolerant, safe, grateful, blessed, satisfied, loving, balanced, comfortable, welcoming, carefree, peaceful, reflective, serene, etc. In this zone we feel fundamentally safe and serene.
3. Red zone (high energy, low sympathy): upset, annoyed, irritated, worried, scared, nervous, tense, angry, furious, panicked, stressed, anxious, etc. Emotional activation predominates in this quadrant.
4. Blue Zone (low energy, low likeability): listless, bored, sad, depressed, restless, miserable, discouraged, exhausted, hopeless, alienated, despondent, hopeless, etc. In this area predominates a state of despondency and little energy.
The ideal is to stay for as long as possible in the yellow or green zone. We can record our feelings on the Mood Meter each day. In this way, we will develop the ability to recognize and label our emotions by taking a break to look inside and ask ourselves how we are and what we feel, the first step to lead a more balanced and satisfying life.
The 7 great emotional achievements
When we become more aware of our emotions, we begin to notice how they impact our decisions, behavior, and overall well-being. As we use the Mood Meter, we will begin to recognize which quadrant we tend to be in so that we can take steps to move closer to the quadrant we feel best in, from mindfulness and breathing techniques to keeping a gratitude journal.
1. Increases emotional awareness. The Mood Meter helps us to identify and label our affective states, which improves our emotional awareness and helps us to know ourselves better, as well as to understand how certain situations or events can affect us affectively.
2. Improves emotional regulation. By identifying and labeling our emotions, we can use emotion regulation techniques to help us control certain states so that we don’t feel so overwhelmed, stressed or anxious all the time.
3. Self-efficacy is increased. Emocional self-regulation leads to self-efficacy. By being able to regulate our emotions, we can use them to our advantage to make better decisions, resolve conflicts, or deal with problems more effectively.
4. Promotes effective decision making. By having greater emotional awareness and increasing our ability to manage emotions, we can make more informed and effective decisions in situations that would normally cause us to lose our temper.
5. Improve interpersonal relationships. When we get to know each other better and manage to stay in a more balanced psychological state, our relationships improve. We manage to communicate more effectively and we can deal more maturely with disagreements and differences.
6. Promotes resilience. When we learn to regulate our emotions, we are able to respond more effectively to stressful situations, so that we become more flexible and resilient people, who can better deal with the world’s problems.
7. Increase well-being. By having more control over our emotions and feelings, we feel more self-confident, which often has a positive effect on well-being and, in the long run, even on our health.
How to use the Mood Meter?
The Mood Meter can be used individually, as a family or with children. We can use its colors to raise awareness of how we feel, but also to talk about our feelings with our partner or to emotionally educate our children.
In the case of children, for example, we must first begin by associating the basic emotions with the colors of the meter. Once the child has gotten used to identifying feelings using the four colors, we can begin to add more specific emotions and feelings.
For example, if the child is depressed and sad, we can ask him if there is another word that can better describe how he feels. “Do you feel lonely, disappointed or homesick?” Thus children will develop emotional granularity and learn to recognize a broader palette of affective states.
In the same way, the Mood Meter will help children to calm down when they are in the red zone by encouraging them to take a step back to reflect on what they are feeling. We can also ask them: “I see that you are in the red zone, can I do something to help you get into the green zone?”. That favors emotional self-regulation from an early age.
In the case of adults, the Mood Meter is particularly useful to become aware of the affective states that we usually have throughout the day, week or month. In fact, it is likely that you will discover that there are certain emotions that tend to predominate and that perhaps should not have so much space in your life since they make you feel bad or steal your energy.
In short, the Mood Meter can become an intuitive and powerful tool over time for learning to listen to our emotions, improving our self-awareness, and building healthier, more fulfilling relationships with ourselves and the others.