Students demonstrate self-awareness and the skills of introspection and reflection by identifying and understanding their emotions, values, attitudes, motivations, mindsets, and personal attributes.
Complete the Understanding Emotions Worksheet or use the questions for in-class discussion DOWNLOAD HERE
Create an anchor chart of emotionally intelligent sentence frames for students to use in difficult discussions. Examples:
How Do Emotions Work?
Dr. Debbie wrote an article to help her patients understand how they are feeling and why emotions are important.
What are emotions? Imagine it’s your birthday. You can’t focus on your schoolwork because you keep picturing the birthday cake that’s waiting for you at home. Your heart is beating fast, and you have a big smile on your face. You are feeling excited.
Now, imagine a friend just made a rude comment about you. Your face is red, and your hand is clenched into a fist. You notice that you are breathing in and out very quickly. Your stomach feels tight. You are feeling angry.
Anger and excitement are examples of emotions. Emotions are how our brains react to (and make sense of) the world around us. Everyone has emotions. They are important parts of what makes us human!
How do we feel emotions?
The part of the brain that allows us to feel emotions is called the limbic system. Emotions usually occur in response to a stimulus. This is an event or thing that produces a reaction — for an upcoming birthday or a rude comment from a friend. In response, many small changes happen in your body. Laughter, tears, clenched fists, and quick heartbeats are all examples of these small changes.
After we notice these changes in our body, we are able to give a name to what we are feeling. The part of the brain that controls emotional responses is called the limbic system.
Why do we have emotions?
Some emotions are comfortable, and others are uncomfortable. It feels much better to be happy than to be afraid, for instance. However, all emotions give us useful information about the world and about each other. Our emotions help us survive — even the uncomfortable ones!
Take fear as an example. Early humans lived in a scary world that presented many dangers. In order to survive, they needed to be able to react quickly when something presented a threat. Fear acts as a signal that tells the rest of the body to defend itself or run away. This is called the “fight or flight” response. Early humans used fear to stay alive long enough to have children. We still use fear as a signal to help us escape dangerous situations.
The emotion of love also serves a helpful purpose. Because mothers feel love, they make decisions to protect their children from harm. Love helps us survive as a human race by encouraging us to reproduce and take care of our family members.
Overall, all of our emotions exist for a reason. Whether they feel “good” or not, we would not be the same if we didn’t experience the whole range of emotions!
Quotations are great writing and discussion prompts.
Understand that the brain is where emotions and regulation occurs.
Our brain stem controls our basic needs for survival, including the fight/flight/freeze response. When we are in a situation of tension or conflict, we get the instinct to fight, run away or freeze. The brain stem is connected to the limbic system or emotional center of the brain, and so when we are in these situations, our emotions also flood our brains, including the cerebral cortex, or logical center.
Sometimes the flight/fight/freeze response is necessary, like when you are about to cross the street, and a car comes zooming at you, but other times, we can regulate ourselves and our emotions in order to connect with our cerebral cortex and react more productively.