Emotions cannot be studied unless they're first identified. One of the best ways to do this is through narrative, ie. evaluating how someone speaks about the emotions they're experiencing.

Are you in the habit of asking "How do you feel?" Whether this question is self-directed or posed to others, the answer is not just a report of your current mood or emotional state. Putting your feelings into WORDS (rather than making a face or uttering a grunt!) is called "affect labelling".

Scientists studying emotion regulation have made some interesting findings. Their research shows that answering this question actually CHANGES the emotions you're currently feeling. Without any effort on your part, affect labelling can help you feel better!

You don't even need a conscious goal around happiness. According to psychologist Christian Waugh, it seems affect labelling implicitly dampens negative emotions while also heightening positive emotions.

Can this phenomenon be further encouraged? Definitely. When describing positive emotions, it's helpful to dig beneath blanket terms like "happy". Reaching for specifics like "delighted", "tickled pink" or "satisfied" prompts greater self-reflection and helps better identify the experience.

Business has traditionally focused on keeping emotion out of the work space, but I strongly believe it's time for leaders to address the emotional culture of their teams. Asking "How do you feel?" is the first step in validating a broader spectrum of emotional experience at work. And thanks to affect labelling, your people who choose to answer this question are already addressing their wellbeing.