How to Take a Feeling Temperature

Feelings are signals, and feelings also push you to act. If the feeling is too strong, you can easily act without thinking. Learning to take your feeling temperature helps you stay aware of negative feelings, thereby enabling you to take the necessary steps to stay in control. The sooner you take steps to control a feeling, the better. In order to take a feeling temperature, it is recommended to create your own personal feeling thermometer. The following steps show you how to do this.


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    Take a blank sheet of paper. Draw a thermometer near the left edge of the page, with 10 equal levels. Next to the top of the thermometer write "Name" and then "Feeling Clues" at the top and to the left of the thermometer. See the picture below for a sample you can copy.
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    Pick the feeling that most often creates a problem for you. The most common problem feelings are sadness, anger, fear, worry, and stress.
    • Remember a time that feeling got you into the most trouble ever. Make that time your number ten.
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    • Give that time a very specific name. Here are some examples of names other people have used: For the end point of anger, people have used these terms – "Howling despair" or "Pounding the wall" or "Cursing"; for depression, people have used these terms – "Crying too much" or "Wishing I were dead" or "Can't do what needs doing".
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    Note at least one feeling clue. A feeling clue is anything that alerts you to the fact a feeling is visiting you. Tears are feeling clues, self-talk is a feeling clue, and imagining what you want to happen is a feeling clue.
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    Remember a time the opposite feeling visits you. The opposite of anger, fear, and stress is calm; the opposite of sadness is happiness. That is your number one.
    • Name that time and note at least one feeling clue.
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    • Think about the times you first realize the feeling is visiting you. That is your five.
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    • Name and note a feeling clue for that time.
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    Repeat the above for all the remaining points on your feeling thermometer.
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    Take your feeling temperature. Once you have created your feeling thermometer, you can take your feeling temperature. Here's how to do that:
    • Take a deep breath in.
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    • Hold and as you do this, ask yourself "What am I feeling now?" and "Where is that on my feeling thermometer?".
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    • Breathe out and as you do, the answer should come into your consciousness.
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    Use a feeling thermometer to better control feelings. See the image for another idea of actions to take in response to the feeling level on the thermometer.
    • If your feelings are in the okay or better range, do nothing.
    • If your feelings are in the middle, practice the one minute meditation and then go about your business. But keep alert to what you're feeling.
    • When your feelings begin moving toward the extreme end of your feeling thermometer, slow down, and use calming self-talk to stay cool. If possible, take a time-out.
    • If your feelings have hit the danger zone, do as little as possible while thinking about how to best handle the feeling.


  • Most people familiar with managing negative emotions say doing the opposite of what the feeling suggests is wisest:
    • Anger says "fight" and being nice is doing the opposite.
    • Fear says "run away" and running toward or facing your fear is the opposite.
    • Sadness say "shut down" and staying as active as you can is the the opposite.
    • Stress says "Hurry up" and slowing down is the opposite.
  • If you find you have trouble creating a feeling thermometer because you cannot identify feeling clues or cannot specifically name the points, keep a feeling log or diary for a week or two.
  • Which illustrates an important point: your feelings are not who you are, and you can control them-they don't have to control you. You can demonstrate this to yourself the next morning that "uh-oh" feeling presents itself. Decide right there that a circumstance (especially such a little one as say, burnt toast, for instance) isn't going to dictate your feelings for you, and overcome!
  • Sounds like a lot of work? It is, which is why it's easier to create a personal feeling thermometer only for troublesome feelings. Otherwise, you can resort to using the "How Are You Feeling Thermometer" posted as the introductory image.


  • Be especially careful with fear, which can be ignored or overcome, but possibly at your peril. Sometimes it is just better to run.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Marker, pencil, pen

Sources and Citations

  • Levine, K. Parents Are People Too, An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents. Penguin, 1997.

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