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Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel Handout by Lindsay Braman


The Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel


It’s an adaptation of the “feelings wheel” that many therapists and educators use to help people learn to better recognize and name their emotions. This wheel is adapted to include common body-based expressions of emotions.



The two inner rings of this wheel are emotions. The outside ring contains descriptions of the actual physical sensations that may accompany that emotion, described in concrete sensory language. (Language is intended to be more accessible for people who are very literal or who are on the ASD spectrum.)

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When people have not had practice recognizing and labeling their emotions, asking them to identify complex emotions becomes an intellectual exercise with limited opportunity to promote growth and change. My emotion sensation wheel prompts mind-body awareness, connection, and conversation.


• A jumping-off point
• A conversation starter
• A reference sheet
• A fill-in-the-blank worksheet for growing self-awareness

This chart is not intended as an assessment tool or scientific measure. Human experience is diverse. Good use of this resource should expect and embrace responses like, “That’s definitely not true for me” or “Actually, that belongs over in that section.” All responses generate opportunities for making connections, help integrate mind and body, and prompt valuable conversations that can help people grow in understanding how their unique body-sensations and emotions are connected.

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[click here to purchase the fill-in-the-blank style worksheet or the Spanish-language version]

Many emotional experiences, researchers at Columbia University have shown, start in the body before moving into awareness. When we can easily name an emotion we’re feeling, it’s because we’ve had a lifetime of practicing. Way back, an attuned caregiver noticed our eyes welling up with tears and affirmed our “sadness” as they comforted us. Or, they saw our wide-eyed panic at the appearance of a new person as they named and soothed our “fear.”

Over time and through countless interactions that increase in complexity, children internalize an entire catalog of emotions and their corresponding body-sensations. With this catalog, humans can – in a split second and without conscious thought – understand specific embodied, emotional experiences. For example, a particular twisting of our gut is the nuanced version of anger we call irritation or a certain sort of heaviness in the chest is sadness. Even though everyone’s body cues are just a little bit different, researchers in Finland found that for most of us, the felt sensation of any specific emotion is pretty similar from individual to individual.

But not all of us have the opportunity to develop a rich emotional vocabulary affirmed by an attuned caregiver. Often, people who missed that process (called “mirroring” by developmental psychologists) while growing up move through life experiencing a full emotional range within their physical body, but are unable to name, express, or seek comfort for (or connection-in) these emotions. At its most pronounced, this difficulty connecting and naming our feelings is known as Alexithymia. Although, many (if not most) humans have some familiarity with the experience of not being able to notice or name feelings.

Growth, for someone who struggles to name the emotions they experienced – or even acknowledge they are having emotions at all – means learning to recognize the sensations of a particular emotional experience and connect it to a cognitive, conscious understanding in order to express the emotion. (Expression can look like what we typically think of as emotional expression – tears, raised voice, etc. – but emotions can be expressed in many ways, including art, movement, and writing.)

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The Two Ways We Experience Emotions:

Researchers have found that emotions come to be in two ways:

  • ⬆️”bottom-up” emotional experience – (described above) where particular body sensations inform our awareness that something is going on emotionally.
  • ⬇️”top-down” emotional experience – when information (like finding out we’re not getting a promotion we wanted or being rejected by a romantic partner) creates a cognitive awareness of emotion that then moves down into the body.

Because emotional experience moves in two directions, people who struggle to feel, name, and express their emotions should seek recovery on multiple levels as well.

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This chart can help start conversations that begin to make connections on a cognitive level – like a top-down emotional experience. I hope this chart will be used in holistic work to engage the conscious logical brain, the body, and the emotional–limbic brain.

ALSO AVAILABLE: Blank Worksheet

This worksheet has the outer ring blank for customizing to an individual’s own body. The worksheet pack includes an 8.5×11″ worksheet, an 11×11″ (tiles to two pages), and an XXL file for large format poster printing (excellent for a hands-on group or IOP activity).

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Printing tip: For smooth, crisp lines on a standard 8.5 x 11 page, set the following in your printer settings: 1. select “fit to page,” 2. choose “high-quality printing.”

[this resource and others are available in Spanish via the Spanish Language Resources page]

Image Description for Screen Readers:

The Emotion Behavior Wheel consists of four layers of rings and six sections of colors: red, purple, blue, green, yellow, and orange. 

The inner circle is solid grey with a white title that reads “Emotion Sensation Wheel.” The second circle – moving outward – is where major emotion categories are written. Moving clockwise from the top right, the categories read: anger (red), disgust (purple), sad (blue), happy (green), surprise (yellow), and fear (orange). 

The third circle is where the corresponding feelings to those emotion categories are written. In the red section of anger are the feelings: offended, insecure, hateful, mad, aggressive, irritated, distant, and critical. In the purple section of disgust are the feelings: disapproval, disappointed, awful, and aversion. In the blue section of sad are the feelings: shame, apathetic, despair, depressed, lonely, and guilt. In the green section of happy are the feelings: optimistic, intimate, peaceful, courageous, satisfied, proud, curious, and joy. In the yellow section of surprise are the feelings: excitement, awe, confusion, and shock. In the orange section of fear are the feelings: scared, anxious, powerless, inferior, unwanted, and embarrassed.

The fourth – and outermost – circle is where corresponding sensations to the associated feelings and emotion categories are written. In the red section of anger are the sensations: lip-tremble, limp, hiding, hot, scowl, turning away, loud words, flushed, heart racing, clenching, tight jaw, headache, numb, gut-turning, feeling hot, and lip curled. In the purple section of disgust are the sensations: shuddering, writhing, need to move, face-scrunch, nausea, lump in throat, queasy, and turn away. In the blue section of sad are the sensations: looking down, empty, curling up, slouching, crying, body aches, tiredness, hollow feeling, slow heart, heaviness, weak, and eye rolls. In the green section of happy are the sensations: buzzing, light, warm, sensitive, still, relaxed, steady, jaw set, calm, soft, tall, inflated, brow-furrowed, awake, energetic, and open. In the yellow section of surprise are the sensations: jumpy, electrified, eyebrows up, jaw droop, speechless, breathless, sweaty palms, and startled. In the orange  section of fear are the sensations: trembling, numb hands, fidgety, foot-tapping, racing heart, quiet, frozen, tense, cold, unsteady, blushing, and tender.

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Emotion Behavior Wheel: Linking Feelings, Behaviors, & Empathy

Emotions prompt behavior.

In this new emotion wheel, I’ve created a visual representation of how emotions and behaviors are linked. Understanding these connections, and how ourselves and the people we care about each have sightly unique connections, can be a key to growth.

Keep reading to learn more or jump to the download to get a PDF copy of this resource designed to help build self-awareness, social skills, and empathy via the link below.

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What you’ll find in this article:

  • A printable PDF Download of the Emotion Behavior Wheel designed by psychotherapist and educator Lindsay Braman (that’s me!).
  • My thought process that prompted the development of this wheel, and a quick summary of the peer-reviewed research this wheel is based on.
  • Advice for using this resource in classrooms and 1:1 work, including:
    • A basic guide to using the Emotion Behavior Wheel,
    • Information about the individuals and groups the E.B.W. was designed for, and
    • Instructions for how to use the worksheets (included in Professional License downloads) as an intervention in school counseling or mental health therapy.

An example of how the interactive worksheet can be used as a print or digital worksheet.

Developing the Emotion Behavior Wheel

Just before everything shut down in 2020, I spent an afternoon in a cafe with my best friend taking turns acting out emotions and describing what they physically felt like. The result of that playful research was the Emotion Sensation Wheel– my #1 ranked download for both 2020 and 2021.

In the 2 years since the Emotion Sensation Wheel was released, I’ve become increasingly aware of a shortcoming of all the emotion wheels (including my own) currently published. They’re exclusively centered on self-experience. These feeling wheels focus on internal experience without inviting us to consider how emotions play a significant role in how we treat others and move in the world.

I wondered: could an emotion wheel be developed that addressed how our emotions, via behaviors, impact others? The Emotion Behavior Wheel is my response to that prompt.

Feeling wheels are useful tools for growing our awareness of our internal world. This new Emotion Behavior Wheel connects feelings and behaviors in a way that can grow insight into how emotions shape the behavior of ourselves and others.

With skilled use, the Emotion Behavior Wheel can be a tool to:

  • 🧒🏽 foster social-emotional learning in children,
  • 🤝 build empathy in people of all ages, and
  • 🔐 help neurodiverse individuals decode how humans communicate emotion through behavior.

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Research Supporting the Emotion Behavior Wheel

As this idea was developing in my mind and my sketchbook, I discovered the results of a study published in 2021 by researchers at North Carolina State University. Their findings strongly suggest that helping kids practice naming emotions a person might be feeling (based on external cues like behavior) can help them develop empathy and the capacity to apologise genuinely when appropriate. 1

In fact, there is a wealth of research 2 on this experience of viewing, naming, and understanding emotions and behaviors to develop empathy, or even simply to create “socially appropriate” responses. The process requires the use of our prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for higher executive functions, like attention and controlled responses). A brain’s prefrontal cortex develops throughout our lives, becoming mature in our early 20’s. According to researchers 3, this area of the brain helps generate feelings and thoughts in response to the emotions and behaviors of others. We observe and subconsciously enact a mental representation of that person’s feelings state, which then creates in ourselves a matching feeling state. 

Our ability to notice and match the emotions of another person is a process helped by something called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons allow us to mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally match what we see. We even have processes that enact somatosensory responses. We feel touch when we see someone being touched, even if we aren’t actually experiencing the touch ourselves! Mirror neurons also help explain viewers’ emotional reactions when observing emotions and behaviors on film and TV 4

With opportunities to practice throughout our lifetime, our brains become increasingly adapt at noticing and matching emotion and predicting the thoughts and feelings of others. In fact, researchers believe that in navigating the emotional cues of others over time, our own patterns of emotional and behavioral responses to the world around us shift 5.

(In reality, of course, changing our behavior and feeling patterns isn’t quite as easy as practicing, especially for neurodivergent brains, but repetition of experience seems to have a powerful effect.)

Emotions & Behaviors are Linked 

The fact is, we do have a pretty good understanding (both intuitively and through academic research) of the ways in which specific feelings prompt specific behaviors. While everyone is a little bit different in how their brains and bodies translate feeling to action, there are many predictable correlations. (And, where an individual responds with “that’s not true for me!” the wheel has worked to prompt awareness and conversation).

The Emotion Behavior Wheel is not meant to be prescriptive, claiming “people who act this way always feel this.” Instead, it’s a jumping-off point for conversations. Disagreements and corrections often build awareness.

People Aren’t Predictable

You may notice many “or’s” in the behaviors listed – yelling or storming out when angry, giving up or acting out when we feel powerless. Sometimes individual reactions to the same emotions include seemingly opposite behaviors.

This can be explained by individuals’ predispositions to choose fight or flight, protest or despair (responses that are often correlated to attachment styles). For example, someone with an avoidant attachment style with a predisposition to flee from conflict might storm off when they feel mad. Alternatively, someone with preoccupied attachment and a drive to fight when faced with conflict might scream and yell. Because of this, “or’s” were added in key sections to include opposing behaviors.

Translating Inner Experience Outward

The Emotion Behavior Wheel is my attempt to create a social-emotional learning (SEL) resource that helps to grow our awareness about how inner experience and outer action are linked. The hope is to provide a resource for helping counselors, teachers, social workers, and others to help students and clients understand for themselves and others that people often act certain ways not because they want to act that way but because they’re overwhelmed by particular emotions.

a person drawing on a worksheet.An emotion behavior wheel poster.

Using the Emotion Behavior Wheel

The Emotion Behavior Wheel can be used from the inside out or the outside in. Working outside in, users can start by locating a certain behavior – like loud words or feeling fidgety – and moving inward to get an indication of what emotion might be prompting that behavior.

Working from the inside out, on the other hand, users might identify a feeling first and then connect it to the outer expression and how that emotion impacts other people’s behavior.

The Emotion Behavior Wheel helps bring insight into how emotions don’t exist in a vacuum. Emotions – especially the way emotions prompt behavior – are communal and relational, not just isolated to self-experience. Through conversations around how certain emotions prompt behaviors, individuals can develop a greater awareness of how emotions affect behavior and develop a higher level of empathy for people behaving badly.

Who is the Emotion Behavior Wheel for? 

The Emotion Behavior Wheel was designed with many types of people in mind, including:

  • Anyone who is developing an awareness of how behaviors are often prompted by underlying emotion.
  • Children, older kids, teens, and others developing Social-Emotional Learning.
  • Neurodivergent individuals of all ages who want to develop a better understanding of how people communicate emotions through behavior.

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Instructions: Behavior Wheel Worksheets

Research at the intersection of neuroscience and education 6 tells us that humans learn best when we engage interactively and creatively with information. That’s why Patreon & Professional Licenses of this art include 2 printable worksheets:

  • Blank Outer Ring Emotion Behavior Worksheet: A worksheet where participants can write in the ways they behave when they are feeling a certain emotion.
  • Blank Inner Rings Emotion Behavior Worksheet: A worksheet where participants can write in the emotions they feel when they behave a certain way.

Both worksheets can be completed for self OR a child, partner, or even a TV character as an awareness-building exercise that can build empathy through imagination.

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Image Description for Screen Readers

The Emotion Behavior Wheel consists of four layers of rings and six sections of colors: pink, purple, blue, green, yellow, and orange. 

The inner circle is solid white with a grey title that reads “Emotion Behavior Wheel.” The second circle – moving outward – is where major emotion categories are written. Moving clockwise from the top right, the categories read: anger (pink), disgust (purple), sad (blue), happy (green), surprise (yellow), and fear (orange). 

The third circle is where the corresponding feelings to those emotion categories are written. In the red section of anger are the feelings: offended, insecure, hateful, mad, aggressive, irritated, distant, and critical. In the purple section of disgust are the feelings: disapproval, disappointed, awful, and aversion. In the blue section of sad are the feelings: shame, apathetic, despair, depressed, lonely, and guilt. In the green section of happy are the feelings: optimistic, intimate, peaceful, courageous, satisfied, proud, curious, and joy. In the yellow section of surprise are the feelings: excitement, awe, confusion, and shock. In the orange section of fear are the feelings: scared, anxious, powerless, inferior, unwanted, and embarrassed.

The fourth – and outermost – circle is where corresponding behaviors to the feelings and emotion categories are written. In the red section of anger are the behaviors: getting defensive (offended), showing off (insecure), saying mean things (hateful), yelling or storming off (mad), picking a fight (aggressive), not listening (irritated), ignoring (distant), giving feedback unkindly (critical). In the purple section of disgust are the behaviors: telling them they’re wrong (disapproval), withdrawing trust (disappointed), expressing disgust (awful), and avoiding or leaving (aversion). In the blue section of sad are the feelings: hiding or blaming (shame), giving up or not caring (apathetic), shutting down (despair), low energy (depressed), clingy or dismissive (lonely), and covering up or telling truth (guilt). In the green section of happy are the behaviors: solution-seeking (optimistic), sharing touch (intimate), being still (peaceful), sticking up for self or other (courageous), admiring (satisfied), boasting and bragging (proud), questions and listening (curious), and being cheerful (joy). In the yellow section of surprise are the behaviors: talking fast and smiling (excitement), being mindful and reverent (awe), head tilting and questions (confusion), and silence, then reaction (shock). In the orange section of fear are the behaviors: getting away (scared), fidgeting and discomfort (anxious), giving up or acting out (powerless), trying to fit in (inferior), isolating (unwanted), and covering up the source (embarrassed).


  1. Mulvey, K. L., Gönültaş, S., Herry, E., & Strelan, P. (2021). The role of theory of mind, group membership, and apology in intergroup forgiveness among children and adolescents. Journal of experimental psychology. General, 10.1037/xge0001094. Advance online publication.[↩]
  2. Rameson, L.T. & Lieberman, M.D. (2009). Empathy: A  social cognitive neuroscience approach. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3(1), 94-100.[↩]
  3. Gallese, V., & Goldman, A. (1998). Mirror neurons and the simulation theory of mind-reading. Trends in cognitive sciences, 2(12), 493–501. [↩]
  4. Shaw, D. (2016). Mirror neurons and simulation theory: A neurophysiological foundation for cinematic empathy. In Current controversies in philosophy of film (pp. 287-304). Routledge. https://doi. org/10.4324/9781315764887[↩]
  5. Tooby, J. & Cosmides, L. (2008). The evolutionary psychology of the emotions and their relationship to internal regulatory variables. In M. Lewis, J.M. Haviland-Jones, & L.F. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (3rd edition) (pp. 114-137). Guilford.[↩]

Through Patreon, you can get instant access to download all printable PDFs, licensing for professional use, and early releases- all while supporting the creation of more resources.


Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions: How to understand yourself — use a simple tool

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Know yourselfMan among peoplePractices how to Robert Plutchik formed the concept of the adaptation theory of emotions. The main idea is that emotions are directly related to the evolutionary process: the higher the emotional reflection, the more promising and useful a person is for society.

Robert Plutchik has identified and placed the eight basic emotions in a diagram similar to an eight-leafed flower. Emotions that are opposite each other are polar:

Each petal shows how we move from a physiological manifestation (for example, anger) to a social manifestation (anger, and then annoyance).

One more find of the author can be seen: on the outer circle, between the petals, there are states that a person gets into when two strong emotions collide at the same time. So, for example, when physiologically we experience anger and disgust towards someone or something, this forms the appearance of contempt.

This scheme has gained the greatest popularity among educational psychologists, because it clearly and entertainingly shows the child what is happening to him now.

The wheel of emotions is actively used in work with alexithymia and personality disorders, the structure of which includes a violation of emotional control and understanding.

How to do the work yourself

Robert Plutchik’s wheel is a good help in keeping a diary of emotions. From 2 to 5 times a day, you set aside time and record what emotions you are experiencing right now, how it affects your physiological state and what you can do to help yourself.


  1. At the meeting, colleagues did not listen to my proposal. I’m very annoyed. Anger is at the heart of frustration, which means that in order to help the body cope with emotion, you need to relieve tension.

  2. Next, we use stress relief techniques for anger — active muscle work will do (box in the air, beat a pillow, tear paper, walk up and down stairs for 5-7 minutes).

  3. Now I know that if they forget about me, I get angry. Where else does this happen to me in my life? How can I minimize these situations or change my attitude towards them?

I recommend not only using the wheel as a tool, but adding observations. For example, at the junction of what emotions does guilt or doubt arise? It doesn’t have to be adjacent emotion leaves. This practice will help you get to know yourself and your reactions more deeply.

Why understand and be able to express emotions

  • To effectively communicate with others and achieve goals.

  • For the absence of tension in the body (and prevention of psychosomatic diseases) or psyche, the causes of which we do not understand.

  • To minimize conflict and tension in communication.

  • For your own peace and comfort.

For self-study, I also recommend purchasing the book “I Feel… What? A book-guide to emotional intelligence in infographics» from the series «What they don’t teach in school» for children and teenagers. In addition to a detailed description of emotions, it contains techniques for elementary self-help in cases where an emotion takes over you, and not you over it.

Remember, you are not the same as your emotions. They are products of our body and psyche, we cannot always prevent them, but we are able to control, live and help ourselves stay in balance.

Medical psychologist at the European Medical Center

«I feel that? Emotional Intelligence Infographic Guide Book»

This book contains everything you need to know about feelings and how to live with them. How to understand what you feel? This is not easy for all of us. It’s even harder to figure out what to do with feelings. How to share them? How to build relationships without offending and not being offended? Should you express anger? Where are the sources of joy and happiness? What is self love and how to cultivate it? Brief answers to the most important questions, in a simple and understandable language even for a child.

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Text: Psychologies. ru editors Photo source: Shutterstock Publication date: February 18, 2023

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Wheel of emotions or what emotional intelligence is for. BLOG by Marina Sorokina, Coordinator of the Psychological Service of the Humanitarian Center

The topic of the development of emotional intelligence in a child is becoming more and more relevant in Ukraine. Especially against the backdrop of ongoing events in the east of the country. Psychologists of the Rinat Akhmetov Humanitarian Center note that many children from Donbass have not perceived the realm of feelings for the last two and a half years. How might this manifest itself in the future?

Based on the experience of colleagues from Israel who conducted training for psychologists of the Headquarters on the course «Trauma of War», we can say with confidence that it is the ability to recognize and express feelings that is one of the most important in working with psychological trauma received as a result of military operations. In addition, high emotional intelligence is important for the formation of a harmonious personality of the child, his ability to adapt and successfully interact with the outside world and other people.

Emotional intelligence is not only the ability to recognize emotions. This is the ability to express them correctly. Understanding intentions, desires, motivations. Your own and those around you. The ability to manage these emotions to solve various life problems.

Often people’s «emotional» vocabulary is extremely poor. It is limited to the standard phrases «I’m glad — I’m not glad», «I like it — I don’t like it». Failure to express feelings leads to bad consequences. Thus, children have difficulties in communicating with peers and adults. The result of this is a negative mental state, the so-called frustration (lat. frustratio — «deception», «failure», «vain expectation», «disorder of intentions»). Therefore, children who do not know how, are ashamed or afraid to show anger, resentment, anger more often than others suffer from various psychosomatic diseases, neuralgia, or show auto-aggression (aggression directed at oneself — author).

One of the brightest examples in my practice of working with IDP children is the story of 10-year-old Gleb. In 2014, the family left Donetsk. The parents assured the boy that it would not last long. Maybe for a month or two. My grandparents stayed in Donetsk.

After some time, it became clear that Gleb’s father could not find a new job in a new place. My mother’s salary was sorely lacking. At the family council, it was decided that dad was returning to Donetsk. Gleb, according to his mother, took the news normally: «It is necessary, then it is necessary.» But just a few days later he broke his arm.

At that time, no one paid any attention to this case. It happens to everyone. But during the year, Gleb broke his arm and finger several times, not counting the endless bruises. At the same time, the child became more and more isolated and withdrawn into himself. He answered all the questions of his mother that everything was fine with him.

Realizing that something was wrong with the child, the mother decided to seek help from a psychologist. During our first meeting, it became clear that the child was experiencing tremendous stress, but could not determine what it was connected with. To the question: “What do you feel now?”, the boy answered that he did not know, it was difficult for him to determine.

At meetings we talked a lot about feelings and emotions. What are they? How to recognize one or the other? What happens to the body when we feel anger or fear? How and why is it necessary to show emotions? After some time, Gleb realized with surprise that it turned out that he had been angry and offended at his mother all this time. He considered her to blame for the fact that dad left.

The son had a frank conversation with his mother. They managed to hear and understand each other. At the last lesson, Gleb said that the world seemed to have acquired colors for him! This case is a vivid illustration of how a child, not recognizing what was happening to him and, not being able to show anger and resentment, unconsciously expressed feelings through auto-aggression.

How to develop a child’s emotional intelligence?

1. Know how to recognize and express your own feelings. Navigate in their shades and midtones. Understand and accept the fact that there are no feelings good or bad! Any emotion born in us is important, and has the «right to life.» Therefore, you should not suppress your own feelings, but try to openly and freely express them.

2. Recognize the importance of the child’s experience. Don’t use phrases like «it’s okay.» Use active listening with children: “I see that you are offended, angry, upset, upset.”

3. Learn to recognize other people’s emotions . During the game, various real situations taking place on the street, at school, in the store, on the playground, observe the behavior, gestures, facial expressions of other people and discuss them with the child.

4. Play board games with your family to develop your child’s emotional intelligence.

5. Read and discuss fiction with your child according to their age.

6. Describe the variety of emotions. The «Wheel of Emotions» by psychology professor Robert Plutchik will help you with this. With it, you can tell the child not only about basic emotions, but also explain how more complex feelings are built.

Basic emotions according to Plutchik: joy, sadness, fear, trust, expectation, surprise, anger, dissatisfaction. They are located in the second line of the circle from the center.

Emotion consists of several components:

  • Some kind of excitement in the human body.
  • A special experience in the body (for example, with strong emotions, the pulse quickens, the cheeks redden, the hands shake).
  • Emotions are expressive, i.e. people express them in the intonation of the voice, in words, in the movements of the body and in behavior.

There are simple questions that help to understand your emotions:

  • What is happening to me now?
  • How does my body feel?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What is the name of this experience?

Embark on an exciting journey into the world of emotions with your children.

By alexxlab

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