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Sunday, May 24, 2015

One-Word Labeling: Thoughts, Emotions, Sensations, and Urges

Goldy for

"One-Word Labeling" is a sample activity from the book The Practicing Happiness Workbook and is reprinted here with permission from New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 

We all have constant streams of sensations, emotions, thoughts, and urges passing through our minds and bodies.  If we’re not aware of them, we may act on them in unhealthy ways.  Mindful labeling can help.  Labeling is simply the act of naming what you’re observing. 

  • A sensation is a physical feeling in the body, such as aching or tingling.
  • A thought is something that passes through the mind: a string of words, a mental image, or a memory.
  • An urge is an impulse or desire to do something, such as scratch your nose.
  • An emotion is a combination of sensations, thoughts, and urges.  Emotions are complex, but they can be labeled with a single word, such as “anger,” “happiness,” or “sadness.”
Let’s use these labels in a meditation exercise.  We’ll try it for five minutes the first time. 
 Settle into a posture that’s relaxed yet alert.  Close your eyes or gaze at a neutral spot.  Allow your breath to flow at its own rhythm without trying to change it.
When you’re ready, expand your attention to include whatever you notice within your mind and body.  Label what you observe: “thought,” “emotion,” “sensation,” or “urge.”  Say the word gently and silently to yourself.  Don’t try to force anything, just label whatever appears. 
The purpose of mindfully labeling thoughts and feelings is to recognize that they’re distinct from the person who’s having them.  You are not your thoughts and feelings; they come and go while you remain yourself.

Adapted from The Practicing Happiness Handbook, by Ruth Baer, PhD.    © New Harbinger Publications, 2014. Reprinted with permission.  

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