4 Key Benefits of Emotional Naming

How are you feeling right now? Happy, sad? Perplexed, or frustrated?

Whatever you’re feeling, try to put a name to it.

Just naming your emotions can have a real impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing.

A screenshot from Kinder World depicting the user interface for an emotional naming activity. There is a straight-sided jar, partially filled with layers of differently coloured sand. There are 6 sand colour options to choose from.

What is Emotional Naming?

First thing’s first, here’s what we mean by “emotional naming”:

Pause and try to identify the most prevalent emotion you’re currently experiencing. It’s okay if it’s mixed. Now label that feeling. It could be “angry”, “relaxed”, “tired” - whatever feels correct to you.

However you name your emotions, here are 4 ways emotional naming could help you.

1. Introduce objectivity

Emotions can often feel all-consuming. In the heat of an intense emotion, pausing and naming your emotion can sometimes provide space to help you respond and not react.

This simple disruption can break the “flow” of strong emotions and help to reduce the intensity, putting you back in control.

While this is helpful in some social situations, remember that it’s also okay to feel your emotions fully and name them later.

2. Reduce fear and anxiety

A 2012 study from UCLA found that simply labelling their fear helped arachnophobes experience a reduced threat response when approaching a tarantula.

While this research is still young, it does suggest that observing and naming your emotions with honesty and without judgement can reduce the intensity of heightened emotions.

3. Build self-compassion

When we acknowledge how another person is feeling, that’s an act of compassion. The same is true for yourself.

Naming your feelings reminds yourself that you have feelings that matter.

It can also provide a bit of perspective when you’re having a bad day. This perspective can remind you that tomorrow can be much better, or that you’re only having a hard time right now and it’s okay to give yourself patience.

4. Strengthen your emotional literacy

Complex emotions are often challenging because we lack the words to explain them even to ourselves. Regular emotional naming won’t automatically explain big and complex emotions for you, but it can help.

The more you name your emotions, the better you can identify what those emotions feel like in your body. So even if you can’t find quite the right word for the sum emotion, you might be better equipped to explain its parts.

But what happens after you’ve named your emotions?

Well, that depends on where you are in your emotional processing. Generally speaking, there are 5 steps:

  1. Notice
  2. Name
  3. Feel
  4. Process
  5. Let Go

These five steps don’t always happen in the same order, and it’s down to you and your unique emotions as to how they need to happen.

Sometimes it’s helpful to name an emotion and then sit with that feeling until we’re ready to process it and let it go. Other times, you need to just ride the emotion out before we’re ready to give it a name and start processing.

Naming your emotions alone isn’t going to cure your depression, water your crops or clear your skin. But it’s still a powerful tool that, if used regularly, can help you daily.

To start practising emotional naming in your daily life, download Kinder World for free on iOS and Android and try the ‘Emotional Naming’ wellbeing activity.