[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Angry or upset? Try picking up a pen. According to psychologist Matthew Lieberman, most people don't think of writing as a way to calm down. "When you look at the brain, it looks a whole lot like emotion regulation is going on when people put feelings into words." Lieberman spoke on February 14th at the AAAS annual meeting.
Lieberman scanned subjects' brains as they looked at pictures of people with either positive or negative facial expressions. They were sometimes asked to label the emotion—which lit up the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with self-control. "Only when people are putting the feeling state into words do we see activity in this right prefrontal region. And what we've also seen is the more that region is activated, the less activity you see in a variety of limbic regions that are typically associated with affective or emotional processing."
But be warned, labeling your feelings dampens all emotional responses. Even the happy ones. How do I love thee? Well, maybe I shouldn't count the ways.