Why learning to ‘down regulate’ negative emotions might save your marriage.

Any married person can tell you the importance of controlling your emotions and research backs up this notion. According to a study published in 2013, emotion regulation predicts marital satisfaction. Using data from a 13-year study of middle-aged couples, researchers found that the downregulation of negative emotions led to greater satisfaction.

The researchers defined emotion regulation as increasing, maintaining, or decreasing the components of a person’s emotional response. The study focused on downregulating negative emotions. The couples were instructed to discuss areas of conflict within their relationships. The regulation was measured during the interactions. The couples then assessed their own behaviour and physiology afterwards.

The results of the study help to confirm that downregulating negativity helps people communicate more effectively. This allows couples to work through their conflicts instead of exhibiting negative behaviour. Researchers believe that marital satisfaction directly impacts physical and mental health. With decreased satisfaction, couples are less likely to communicate their problems and resolve issues.


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The same is true in a work setting. Colleagues who cannot control their emotions and communicate effectively are more likely to experience dissatisfaction, low morale, lower creative output and limited productivity. The prevailing model of emotion regulation involves a four-step sequence:

  • Situation
  • Attention
  • Appraisal
  • Response

People can regulate emotions during any of the four steps in the sequence. For example, you can choose to avoid negative situations. If you cannot avoid the situation, you may find that you can focus your attention on something else. You can also find ways to change the way that you appraise or respond to the situation. This may involve avoiding jumping to conclusions or taking a moment to collect your thoughts before responding.

If you want to learn how to apply these practices in a work environment, work with the positive psychology trainers at Think Learn Succeed.


About the author of this article:

Eleanor Shakiba is a positive psychology trainer. Her passion is working with positive deviants – the people in communities and organisations who break paradigms and build new solutions to entrenched problems. Eleanor is the author of the Positive Psychology Toolkit for HR and L&D practitioners. She also runs a range of specialist retreats and workshops for trainers and facilitators.