When we work with children, their parents, and our fellow teachers and colleagues, we encounter emotional ups and downs as part of our everyday experience. How we navigate emotional outbursts, hurt feelings, and differing ways of reacting to adversity can quickly dominate the experience for everyone in any setting, whether it be at home the classroom, and any workplace…. or virtual space!
What are emotions? There are some that prefer to define them as deeply connected to specific moods, physical expressions, and in general, patterns of activity (Nummenmaa & Saarimaki). There are others (Barrett & Satpute), who’s definition of emotions do not make the connection to specific ways of how we feel or show those feelings with facial gestures (e.g., Siegel et al., 2018). What both groups do agree upon is that there is little evidence connecting our emotions to specific parts of our brain. Nummenmaa & Saarimaki tell us that our emotions are connected to specific patterns of neural function, or in layman’s terms, in general connected to our brain.
So how can this kind of information help us as teachers and parents of young children? Can this help us if we are business owners regarding how we guide other adults?
Absolutely it can! When we recognize that our emotional responses are clues, we can act more like intelligent and calm detectives, and less like a power-hungry dictator. Instead of judging others for their emotional outbursts, we can figure out why it happened, and what we can do next.
According to others in the Barrett/Satpute camp, emotions come from networks in the brain, and not specific brain centers (Kragel & LaBar, 2016; Wager, Krishnan, & Hitchcock, 2018). What appears to be known is mostly that we have a lot more to learn about the brain. What can be said with some certainty is that our emotions and our expression of emotions do not live in a static state, but rather a dynamic one, which appears to be very sensitive to our external and internal environment.
I love it when science backs up something I’ve been considering based on experience, right?! When we are interacting and communicating with any aged learner, especially young children, we should remind ourselves that…
…we can impact BOTH their internal and external environment, which can help them choose their emotional state of mind.
When I guide young children, their teachers, parents, and adults in general, I love to use iBG® brain games with breathing (specifically box breathing; https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing) to impact a sense of calm and relaxation, both of which allow anyone a much better chance to make decisions which produce positive outcomes, especially when we use these brain games with an attention of focus.
In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, there’s evidence that this kind of deep breathing can help calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
These particular brain games use frequencies (embedded music), physical movement which crosses the mid-line, specific tempos, and rhythmic consonance. All this to say, that when we can move in specific ways with specific frequencies, we impact our brain in such a way that results in being more calm of mind and in general, more resilient. Add this breathing to the mix and you have a superfood experience for our brain and our ability to choose our emotional state.
What would our world look like if we taught our youngest generation, and older generations, how to be able to choose their emotional state of being? What wouldn’t be impacted??
Choose wisely 🙂
- Barrett LF (2017a). Functionalism cannot save the classical view of emotion. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12, 34–36. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Barrett LF (2017b). How emotions are made: The secret life of the brain. New York: Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt. [Google Scholar]
- Barrett LF (2017c). The theory of constructed emotion: An active inference account of interoception and categorization. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12, 1–23. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
- Saarimaki H, Ejtehadian LF, Glerean E, Jaaskelainen IP, Vuilleumier P, Sams M, & Nummenmaa L (2018). Distributed affective space represents multiple emotion categories across the human brain. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 13, 471–482. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]