When teaching children how to recognize their own emotions, few tools are as handy as the Mood Meter. Developed by Marc Brackett at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, the Mood Meter is an invaluable visual tool that is especially helpful for expanding one’s emotional vocabulary. Most of us have a limited vocabulary when describing our day-to-day emotional state and the mood meter can at the very least help expand that vocabulary. Its intuitive design, judgment-free example, and exciting applications make it a great resource for beginning Emotional Intelligence (EI) education at a young age.
The foundation of the Mood Meter is the four-quadrant design. It is separated into four color-coded quadrants: High-energy pleasant (yellow), high-energy unpleasant (red), low-energy pleasant (green), low-energy unpleasant (blue). Focused on self-awareness and self-regulation, each quadrant contains 25 emotions of varying intensity and pleasantness.
Because it is color-coded, it is especially helpful for teaching EI across language and age barriers. With younger children, it may be helpful to simply teach them to ascribe their mood to one of the four colors. As they familiarize themselves with recognizing their own emotions, you can expand the chart bit by bit until you reach the full 100 emotions.
Understanding the Mood Meter
It is important to understand that each emotion on the Mood Meter has a range of behavioral identifiers. Learning each of these and the relations between them is where the depth truly lies. Some of these behaviors include facial expressions, body language, vocal tones, and physiology (what goes on inside the body). For example, if you’re feeling enthusiastic you will display a smile, your body will be animated, your voice will be raised and cheery, and your heart rate will be higher than normal.
These are all physical signs of the emotion you’re feeling and by comparing them to our normal resting state, we can better understand our own emotions and how they take shape within us.
Teaching the Mood Meter
When teaching the mood meter to children, it is important to first establish a space where the children feel comfortable sharing their emotions. They need to feel totally heard and respected in order to truly engage with the mood meter. On this note, it’s crucial to validate every emotion shared and not value one emotion over another. DO NOT try to move a child from one quadrant to another. Help them develop strategies to find comfort in whatever quadrant they’re in. All emotions are valid and it’s important to reaffirm this often. Much of this is incorporated in the RULER teaching approach also from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.
If you want to try it out for yourself, the Mood Meter App is a great tool for tracking your emotional state hour-by-hour. It recommends tailored strategies for regulating your emotions based on emotional trends. Try it at https://moodmeterapp.com/