In everyday life, people frequently engage in bodily activities to regulate their emotions, such as physical exercise to reduce stress, eating tasty foods to improve one's mood, or practice meditation to achieve deep states of relaxation. In spite of such widespread practices, the wisdom of using the body in emotion regulation is highly contested within psychological science. Some studies have shown that people may successfully control their emotions through bodily exercies such as muscle relaxation or controlled breathing. However, other studies have shown that controlling bodily expressions in emotion regulation is ineffective, cognitively draining, and potentially damaging to one's psychological health. As such, it remains unclear if, when, or why using the body in emotion regulation may be helpful or hurtful. In the proposed research, I propose a new and integrative theoretical approach to the role of the body in emotion regulation. Drawing from modern theories of embodied cognition, I advance a model of EMBodied Emotion Regulation (EMBER). This model assumes that embodied (sensori-motor) processes are likely to exert a pervasive influence on all forms of emotion regulation, even those that are targeted at cognitive systems such as attention or appraisals. From this perspective, recruiting appropriate embodiments may considerably enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of emotion regulation, while neglecting or interfering with embodiments may set people up for emotion-regulatory failure. Key hypotheses of the EMBER model will be tested in four projects, which address potential synergetic effects between embodiments and emotion regulation strategies (Project 1), how embodiments may enhance the efficiency of implementing and learning emotion-regulatory skills (Project 2), how ineffective emotion regulation strategies may lead to interference or neglect of emotion embodiments (Project 3), and the potential therapeutic role of the embodied exchanges between patient and therapist in psychotherapy (Project 4).
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