Labeling Emotions: How to Take Control of Your Feelings Through Mindfulness

Emotional labeling paired with mindfulness can help you acknowledge and understand your feelings. The ability to name your emotions will help you define and improve your experiences. 

The goal of this post is to introduce the concept of emotional labeling as a companion to mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is about connecting all sensations to consciousness. Through practices like labeling emotions, you can learn to become more present.   

I know how that sounds. But labeling your emotions can stop you from fighting with your coworkers or making a fool out of yourself at that party. I’ll discuss my experiences with emotional expression and give you some tools to help you recognize your emotions. 

Tips for Labeling Emotions

  • Say it out loud
  • Write it down
  • Consider the Intensity
  • Physical Clues

How do We Label Our Emotions?

I taught English for a while. One of the first things I tell my students is that when we ask “How are you?” in English, we don’t mean it. In other languages like Chinese, if you say “ni hao ma?” You want to know what is going on in that person’s life. That question in Chinese is mostly reserved for friends.

I noticed that even with my friends, we don’t mean it when we say, “How are you?”. It is mostly a formality. I find it is a formality in many situations.

Has language conditioned us to experience the world in a simplified way? Have people become less connected to how they feel because of the limitations of polite language? 

Many of us may feel the need to suppress strong emotions. There are many reasons for doing this, and I don’t think all of the reasons are negative. However, labeling emotions can help people to experience their emotions in a safe way.

What Is Emotional Labeling?

Emotional labeling is slightly more than saying how you really feel. Learning to label your emotions is a way to consider your feelings as a part of you rather than something you are. Practicing mindfulness can help bridge that gap. 

Mindfulness meditation helps you to find stillness in a moment. This kind of meditation focuses on being present. Your emotions are part of the present. So, when you feel something, identify it.

Why Should I Label Emotions?

Labeling emotions is a type of coping mechanism that helps you understand what you are feeling. Once you understand what you are feeling, you have a better chance of dealing with them. 

For example, if your coworker didn’t complete a task and now you have to deal with the fallout, you may be quick to bad mouth that coworker or even confront them. You can assess your feelings before reacting using quick and simple mindfulness techniques.

Maybe you first feel anger. Take a moment to experience that anger. Next, figure out its origin. Are you angry at a person, a situation, or an event? Then, you check in with yourself to see if you are feeling anything else. You might be feeling stress or anxiety in addition to anger. 

Addressing those other feelings will help you understand what exactly you are experiencing. Once you have labeled your emotions, you can begin to act.

Labeling your emotions can help you respond in a more constructive way to a problem. You know what you are feeling and better understand how to handle yourself. You may decide you don’t want to lash out even if you are still upset. 

You may still feel all that anger, but now you know what it is and how it affects you. You understand that expressing that anger may not be helpful at the moment. 

How Do You Practice Labeling Emotions?

There are many ways to do this. Like everything in mindfulness meditation, it takes practice. However, taking a moment to breathe in a stressful situation is always a good idea, even if it’s only two breaths. 

Say it Out Loud

The easiest way to label your emotions is to say them. “I feel angry” or “I feel stressed.” Try not to add a because at first. Just say it. People may deem that a little weird, but it’s better than letting that coworker know what you really think of them. 

Write it Down

If you have the time and space, write down how you feel. Write a draft email or text doc. Just don’t send it. The main idea is that your emotions are no longer bottled up inside. Once you name your feelings, they have less power over you.

Consider the Intensity of the Emotion

Considering the intensity does not mean to downplay the emotion. All emotions are valid. How angry are you? If the answer is “really fucking angry,” then listen to that emotion. 

Look Out for Physical Clues

Once you label your emotion, do a quick body scan. Are you having a physical reaction to this emotion? You can do this when experiencing any emotion. I mostly talked about anger and stress, but practicing labeling all emotions is helpful. 

How Labeling Emotions Helps Us to Move On

Emotions are a large part of who we are. As humans, we experience a wide range of emotions, and we all express them in different ways. You need to begin labeling your emotions to gain better control and understanding of yourself. 

Labeling emotions is part of the mindfulness practice as a whole. Labeling emotions helps us connect with reality. There is not one reason why we feel a certain way.

You don’t have to pretend everything is ok. You don’t have to pretend all the emotional labor is on you. It’s important to remember that only you can manifest your reality. That reality is what you make of it, as far as your emotions are concerned.

You may not be able to control circumstances or the behaviors of others. But using mindfulness and labeling emotions can bring you closer to understanding yourself.


What is an example of labeling feelings?

If you notice your fists clenching, that could be a sign of anger.

Why is it hard to label emotions?

There is no standard for what an emotion is supposed to feel like. People are often encouraged to hold back emotions and often don’t give themselves space to feel.

Photo of author
Jillian has been on a journey to find peace in the chaos since 2016. Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have helped them keep present. They have been writing as a passion since an early age and writing professionally since 2018.