Mental Health Tips
October 22, 2021

From the Therapy Room: Practice Emotional Granularity

Written by
H'Sien Hayward, PhD
Reviewed by
Updated on

Whether we’re in therapy or not, we can all benefit from simple tools to support our mental health and manage the challenges we encounter in our daily lives. “From the Therapy Room” is a new video series from Two Chairs therapists bringing you the latest research-backed mental health techniques in a digestible format so you can apply them right away.

Stay tuned for more helpful techniques straight from the therapy room!

We all want to feel better. What if one of the secrets to feeling better was getting better at saying how we feel? 

The English language alone has about 3,000 words for emotions. But few of us use all, or even most of them. However, there’s a growing body of research in psychological science that suggests we would be better off if we did. 

Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, one of the world’s most respected scientists in the field of human emotion, and her colleagues refer to this construct as emotional granularity—or, put simply, having finely tuned feelings. 

When you practice emotional granularity, you have more precise tools for handling the many challenges life can throw at you. This can have a big impact on your health and well-being. Research shows that people who experience their emotions with greater granularity are less likely to resort to unhealthy strategies like binge drinking or behaving aggressively, and are more likely to:

  • Show equanimity when confronted with rejection 
  • Find positive takeaways from difficult experiences
  • Live longer, healthier lives

Practice with a Feelings Wheel

So, how do you get better at this and start to improve your well-being? Increase your emotional vocabulary. You can do this by printing out a copy of a feelings wheel or saving one on your phone. The next time you are feeling something negative, use it to more precisely pinpoint what you are feeling. 


When you are feeling “bad,” get more specific: Are you feeling bored, busy, stressed or tired? And then drill down even more: If you’re bored, are you feeling apathetic or indifferent? If you feel lonely, are you feeling isolated or abandoned? 

Learn Emotions in Other Languages

You can also go beyond the 3,000 English emotion words and look to other languages. You might already know the German schadenfreude, meaning taking pleasure in another’s misfortune, but did you know the Filipino gigil, the urge to squeeze something that is unbearably adorable? As you learn these foreign concepts, you might be able to experience them yourself. 

Once you develop this practice, you’ll be better at regulating your emotions and well on your way to feeling better.

If you're interested in learning more helpful techniques to support your mental health, therapy can be a great resource. Schedule a call with a care advisor to learn more or book a matching consult appointment today.

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If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency or crisis and needs immediate help, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Additional resources can be found here.

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