EXERCISES ON EMOTIONS
Both adults and children are not used to observing what we really feel. We usually say we’re okay or we feel bad. It is necessary to learn to specify what it feels like and what emotion it is in order to be aware of the emotional reactions that emerge automatically. One important aim of these exercises is to increase our sensitivity to what is happening within us. Being aware of what is going on inside us is the first step in getting to know ourselves better and thus managing our responses with inner freedom and consistency with situations. We need to come to feel that our own emotional reactions lead us to give answers that have to do with our fears and not with the situation itself.
EXERCISE: OBSERVE-RECOGNIZE-LET GO THE EMOTIONS
Objective: Observe the emotion, recognize emotion, and let it go. Learn to let disturbing emotions pass.
Explain that emotions are neither good nor bad, even though we like some more than others. Just like pain, emotions come and go. When something hits us, it hurts. In the same way, we also feel emotions when we don’t like something: someone gets angry with us; our pet gets lost; a good friend moves somewhere else; we feel afraid or sad, but none of them lasts very long. Just like clouds moved by the wind.
How to do it: Sitting up comfortably or lying down. Eyes closed. The teacher will guide the exercise. Start with a few minutes paying attention to the breathing. Next the guide asks children to recall and relive a situation in which they felt an unpleasant emotion (like those mentioned above or others). They should feel how they felt in that moment.
Then they place the hand on the chest and notice what they feel, what is the name of the emotion they are feeling: sadness, loneliness, anger, pain, shame, fear? The guide says: There is nothing wrong in what you feel.
Observe what you feel and pay attention to the breath again and again until the emotion becomes smaller and smaller, until it has almost gone away.
Later, little by little, they open their eyes. Finally, invite them to comment about what they felt, their difficulties, and invite them to repeat it with different emotions.
Explain them that by repeating it, the unpleasant emotions will pass more quickly.
They can do it every time they feel bad, or when they feel nervous before a test.
EXERCISE: MY BODY SPEAKS TO ME! (only emotions)
Objective: Recognize own emotions and realize how emotions affect our body in different ways.
How to do it:
First let’s do a brief breathing exercise.
Sitting in a circle. The instructor asks, “How does my body tells me I feel …”
– …that I feel loved
– …that I did something bad
– …very content
– …that I don’t understand something
We ask children to comment on each emotion what they feel in their body, where they feel it and how it is, in each case. The educator will have to help them to be specific according to the possibilities of each age.
EXERCISE: MAGICAL THEATER
Objective: The aim is to stage common situations of relationship between children.
We make the children understand that in this magical theater everything will affect us as if it were real. But, in this MAGICAL THEATER, everything can be resolved with the MAGICAL IDEA: “Treat others the way you want to be treated”.
The objective is to relive daily situations in which the emotions and conflicts of their age appear. It is necessary to bring to life what each participant would feel if it were a real situation. By switching roles, the goal is to develop empathy by standing in someone else’s shoes. Performing the situation with the application of the MAGICAL IDEA should provide them with the skills to know what they feel and find real solutions to conflicts in relationships. By repeating this activity, kids should reach an understanding and respect other’s tastes, ideas or situations without offending or disturbing them.
How to do it: Example: Two children are the actors. One plays by himself because he wants to be alone. The other wants to play with him and the first tells him no. Develop the situation. Then, each one should say what they felt in that moment as if it were a real situation. Now they switch roles and they reenact it. Later, in light of the magic idea, we all think about how it could be played out so that everyone feels good. When the new magical idea is developed, the children perform the scene with the new changes contributed by the group. Example: Two children. One is playing with some toys and the other, without care, hits the toys with a ball, and the first child gets mad. Example: Two children. One child lent the other a game to take home for the day. He has not returned it and the first child thinks that his friend doesn’t want to give it back to him, and asks for it angrily. Example: Four children play a game. Another child wants to play too, but the four don’t let him.
EXERCISE: FLOATING WITH THE LIGHT
Floating with the light (Relaxation – peace – love)
Objective: Generate emotional wellbeing and sharing it with others. Empathy and
How to do it:
Preparation for the exercise: Spend energy and relax.
In this session we will first spend energy. The children should run from one side of the classroom to the other, then do a windmill motion with their arms hanging free. Lying face up with eyes closed. In this moment, the educator starts with the guided relaxation that can be found in the tab Attention to the Body.
(First remind them that if any thought arises, they should let it pass as if the wind were carrying it away and continue relaxing.)
After the relaxation exercise they should feel calm and the guided exercise can begin.
Guide as follows: You see that an orange bright light is approaching your head. The light settles above your head and you feel its warmth. The light enters my head and I feel as if my forehead loosens up and my eyes float gently. The light continues lowering within my head to my mouth, my tongue, and down to my neck until it reaches my chest, where the light shines strongly and I feel happiness in my chest like what I feel when I am elated and content. I feel a great happiness in my chest just like I feel when I love someone very much. Feel it as intensely as you can and give that happiness to the people you love as if it were a gift. Think of your mother, your father, your brother, your friend, or maybe your puppy or kitty and give them what you feel. You sense that your happiness does reach them and make them happy. Feel it for as long as you like … (and then) slowly feel your body, your arms, your head, you move your toes, you feel your eyes, and open them little by little.
Finally, calmly ask them to comment on how and what they felt, and how they feel in this moment.
Invite them to repeat it e.g. when they go to bed.
The teacher could do this exercise one day weekly.
EXERCISE: WHO DRIVES THE BUS?
Objective: Recognize how we react when an emotion drags us along.
How to do it: More than an exercise, this is an idea for a classroom project, where you will work on emotions for a period of time.
The idea is to identify the person with a bus that will be driven by our emotions. I mean, I am the bus and I drive myself through life according to the emotions I have at every moment.
In order to do this, we first work with the children on the 4 basic emotions: fear, joy, sadness and anger.
They must be able to recognize them in themselves and how they behave when some of them drag them along.
For example: if I am very angry I can scream, knock, not listen, not understand others, etc.
Then we asked them how would you drive the bus if you were very angry? (Children should say how they imagine they would do it) Is there any danger if you drive like this? Discuss the dangers of driving the bus in this way with the children.
Do this job with every emotion.
Once you’ve done this part of the job, ask them if they think it’s a safe way to lead us. What can we do to drive better and not let ourselves be swept away by emotions?
The teacher will explain that the TRICK is to BECOME AWARE of which emotion is driving the bus. The educator explains that the bus has an intelligent system, but it doesn’t work if we don’t activate it intentionally. On the bus there is a button called BE AWARE and if we press it we (the bus) realize what emotion is driving. So, this intelligent system calms the emotions and the bus moves softly along the street (our life).
To represent all this, in the corresponding moment, the whole class will make a big cardboard bus and the 4 characters that will be the 4 basic emotions. Finally, when the time comes, the BE AWARE button will be placed. This way everything will work safely for the bus and all passengers.
Note: This project can be used to include the whole work of emotion recognition, or it can be done as the culmination of a previous work where children already know how to recognize emotions and have worked with them in their lives.