In the new book I’m reading Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become author Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D. reminds readers that emotions are fleeting, temporary experiences. This triggered me to dig deeper into how emotions are measured. I found interesting research that explained the distinction between emotions and moods.
Emotions are discrete experiences triggered by an identifiable event which consist of three parts:
- A psychopysiological expression (how we react verbally/our thoughts)
- A biological reaction (how our body reacts)
- A mental state (how we process in light of our emotions)
Moods are less well defined. They are considered a mental state which can occur without a trigger and can last an indefinite period of time. If you’ve ever woken up on the wrong side of the bed, you’ve experienced a “mood“.
Another difference: emotions can occur simultaneously. Moods, on the other hand, are experienced in sequence. Typically, we have to conclude experiencing one mood to move into another – consider those days you are just “in a funk”.
So, as educators, what can we do with this information? First, let’s explain this to our students. Let’s give them the appropriate vocabulary with which they can explain their experiences. Then, let’s listen to them.
Once we can all distinguish between a mood and an emotion, we can take better care of one another. Personally, I feel lighter knowing that emotions are temporary. No matter how challenging, I know they will pass.
On the other hand, with an understanding of these differences, I can now communicate with my students in a way that sets their expectations.
When I explain that I am in a sad mood, they will know that this (1) has nothing to do with them and (2) might last a while. Likewise, when they come to me with that explanation, I can tailor my approach to them to support what they are experiencing.
Imagine how these words could change student-to-student interactions!
What do you think? Have you ever discussed with your students how you are feeling? How did they respond?