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Positive Emotional Self-Regulation: How a Person Can Control Their Emotions Better

functional emotions enable an individual to adjust and react to certain demands of a circumstance/ Photo By KieferPix via Shutterstock


Emotions are a regular part of a person’s daily experience. People have different reactions and feelings toward specific events, objects or towards their fellow human beings.

Although suppressing emotions is not advisable, being  a slave to it can have a negative effect on a person’s life. If an individual is unable to take charge of their emotions, this can lead them to have difficulty coping with stress and also cause them to develop disorders and mental illnesses.

Definition of Emotions

According to the study Emotional Regulation in Sport and Performance, emotions are subjective feelings with different aspects that represent the current, expected or past interactions with the environment.

The authors of the study, Claudio Robazza and Montse Ruiz, state that emotions use various interrelated psychological processes which include affective, cognitive, motivational, physiological and expressive or behavioral components. They help the person in adjusting and performing through boosting their sensory intake, identification of important stimuli, preparedness for behavioral reactions, making choices, memory, and socializing.

Functional emotions enable an individual to adjust and react to certain demands of a circumstance. Conversely, dysfunctional emotions show the absence of resources and the wrong amount of energy being exerted.


emotional self-regulation as the ability to handle emotions according to what the situation calls for/ Photo By GaudiLab via Shutterstock


What is Emotional Self-regulation?

Parents With Confidence explains emotional self-regulation as the ability to handle emotions according to what the situation calls for.

It is also defined by a research published in the Plos One Journal as the effort to control emotional experience by taking charge of the intensity, duration and quality of the emotion.


Ways People Can Control Their Emotions

A person may employ several emotional self-regulation techniques. Based on the results of the research Positive Emotion Regulation and Well-Being: Comparing the Impact of Eight Savoring and Dampening Strategies, there are two types of emotional self-regulation. These categories are savoring and dampening.

Savoring Strategies

The savoring strategies of emotional self-regulation aid a person in increasing the positive experiences in their life. These include:

1. Behavioral display

This involves showing a person’s positive emotions by using non-verbal behavior. It is said the facial expression exhibited can influence the subjective experience of the feeling.

2. Be present

This means that individual intentionally focuses on the enjoyable experience they are having in the present moment. This savoring strategy is noted to be able to enhance the recurrence and level of positive emotions.

3. Capitalizing

This manner of savoring is described as telling other people about a positive event and celebrating it with them. This is linked with the daily positive affect and a better immune response.

4. Positive Mental Time Travel (Positive MTT)

This involves an individual recalling the memory of a positive situation that has happened in their lives and expecting more positive experiences to occur.

Dampening Strategies

On the other hand, dampening strategies reduce an individual’s positive experiences. These techniques are:

1. Suppression

This dampening strategy is characterized as holding back a person’s positive emotions. Suppression may often be done out of fear, modesty or shyness. An individual’s inclination to suppress their positive emotions can have negative effects on their psychological well-being and satisfaction. This may also cause them to lessen their subjective pleasure of the positive situation.

2. Distraction

This involves doing activities or having thoughts that are not connected to the positive event. The distraction may come in the form of worrying. Being unable to concentrate on the positive event has been shown to harm a person’s long-term affective well-being.


to be able to think rationally and obtain happiness, people must have the ability to control their emotional impulses/ Photo By mavo via Shutterstock


3. Fault-finding

This is described as focusing on the negative parts of a positive situation, or what a person believes could have made the situation even better. Fault-finding is shown to negatively affect an individual’s self-esteem, contentment in life and happiness.

4. Negative Mental Time Travel (Negative MTT)

This type of dampening strategy comes in two parts. One part of Negative MTT is remembering a positive event and highlighting the external attribution. For instance, a student may have the thought that the only reason they got an A on their paper was because it was easy.

The other part involves expecting bad situations to happen the future. For example, a person may think that their supply of luck is running out and they should not get too used to the positive events that have recently been happening.


How Does Emotional Self-regulation Affect One’s Well-being?

Philosophers, such as Solomon and Aristotle, have claimed that to be able to think rationally and obtain happiness, people must have the ability to control their emotional impulses. In the study conducted by Stephane Cote, Robert Levenson and Anett Gyurak, it is stated that the capacity of a person to alter their emotional expressive behavior can help an individual adjust according to the needs of the situation.

According to Cote and his team, if a person is able to regulate their emotions, they “might be more successful in communicating attitudes, goals, and intentions that are appropriate in various situations.” Moreover, there is a possibility that it may be rewarded and fulfilled. Having the ability to adjust successfully to situational demands can be connected to several signs of well-being and success.

When people are able to modify their emotional expressive behavior this can help them adapt to display rules about who they can express these emotions to and when they will express them. In conforming to display rules of certain settings,  they may be rewarded. In contrast, breaking the display rules may lead to serious consequences, like social exclusion and punishment. Effective emotional self-regulation results into having more social gains and preventing consequences from happening.

Based on the research An Integrative Theory-Driven Positive Emotion Regulation Intervention, remembering past positive events, savoring the moment and expecting future events to be positive can generate a high level of well-being and happiness.



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