While there are many ways to influence one’s emotional state for the better, emotion regulation often involves down-regulation or reducing the intensity of emotions. In the throws of grief, you may down-regulate sadness by recounting previous joyful memories. An experience of anxiety may be coupled with distraction from the lingering thought that is causing the down-regulating emotional experience. Emotion regulation can also include up-regulation or amping up emotions, which can be useful when an imminent danger or challenge calls for a healthy dose of anxiety or joy.
The process model of emotion regulation proposed by psychologist James Gross emphasizes that people can act to control their emotions at different points in time—including before they feel an emotion (antecedent-focused emotion regulation) and after they have already begun to react emotionally (response-focused emotion regulation).
Two broad categories of emotion regulation are reappraisal—changing how one thinks about something that prompted an emotion in order to change one’s response—and suppression, which has been linked to more negative outcomes. Other strategies include selecting or changing a situation to influence one’s emotional experience, shifting what one pays attention to, and trying to accept emotions.
What are some ways that you implement emotion regulation?
Gross, J. J. (2014). Emotion regulation: Conceptual and empirical foundations. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), Handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 3–20). The Guilford Press.