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Automatic control of negative emotions: Evidence that structured practice increases the efficiency of emotion regulation

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Emotion regulation (ER) is vital to everyday functioning. However, the effortful nature of many forms of ER may lead to regulation being inefficient and potentially ineffective. The present research examined whether structured practice could increase the efficiency of ER. During three training sessions, comprising a total of 150 training trials, participants were presented with negatively valenced images and asked either to "attend" (control condition) or "reappraise" (ER condition). A further group of participants did not participate in training but only completed follow-up measures. Practice increased the efficiency of ER as indexed by decreased time required to regulate emotions and increased heart rate variability (HRV). Furthermore, participants in the ER condition spontaneously regulated their negative emotions two weeks later and reported being more habitual in their use of ER. These findings indicate that structured practice can facilitate the automatic control of negative emotions and that these effects persist beyond training.
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... Since the HINT is itself an adaptation of the SRHI, all studies operationalized habit in the manner proposed by Verplanken and Orbell (2003). A single study (Christou-Champi et al., 2015) also used the automaticity subscale of the SRHI, the Self-Report Behavioural Automaticity Index (SRBAI; Gardner et al., 2012)). As seen in Table 3, 6 studies (25.0%) used self-generated thoughts, meaning that participants were able to organically provide their own personalized content for the HINT questionnaire, rather than content determined by researchers (such as "Thinking negatively about myself"). ...
... Half (12/24) of empirical studies applied habit to negative selfthinking, though eight of these were from a single article (Verplanken et al., 2007). Of the remaining empirical studies, three studies applied the concept of habit to worry (Verplanken, 2012;Verplanken & Fisher, 2014), three studies applied habit to self-critical thinking (James et al., 2015;Thew et al., 2017a), three studies applied habit to self-stigma (Chan & Lam, 2018;Chan & Mak, 2017), two studies applied habit to negative body image thinking (Verplanken & Tangelder, 2011;Verplanken & Velsvik, 2008), and one study applied habit to emotion regulation (Christou-Champi et al., 2015). ...
... Verplanken & Tangelder, 2011), self-criticism (e.g. James, Verplanken, & Rimes), and emotion regulation (Christou-Champi et al., 2015). Not only were a diverse array of mental processes investigated as habits, researchers investigated many different applications of mental habits in relation to mental health: mental habits served as outcome variables, independent variables in multiple regression analyses, mediators, and moderators. ...
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Background Our thoughts impact our mental health and there is a distinction between thought content (what we think) and thought process (how we think). Habitual thinking has been proposed as one such process. Habits, which are cue-dependent automatic responses, have primarily been studied as behavioural responses.Methods The current scoping review investigated the extent to which the thinking patterns important for mental health have been conceptualized as habits. Using systematic search criteria and nine explicit inclusion criteria, this review identified 20 articles and 24 empirical studies examining various mental habits, such as negative self-thinking, self-criticism, and worry.ResultsAll of the included empirical studies examined maladaptive (negative) mental habits and no study investigated adaptive (positive) mental habits. We categorized the characteristics of each study along several dimensions including how mental habits were defined, measured, and which constructs were studied as habitual.Conclusions Although mental habits appear to be relevant predictors of mental health, habitual thinking has not been well-integrated with psychological constructs related to mental health, such as automatic thoughts. We discuss the implications of mental habits for future research and clinical practice.
... Little is known, however, about the type of interventions that might be successful in achieving these aims in the context of sports coaching, but some suggestions can be made. According to the extant literature, a structured intervention program (i.e., training session) is useful for the unconscious emotional regulation process [58]. For instance, after participants in the reappraisal condition were exposed to various stimuli that induce negative emotions, the participants were then encouraged to reinterpret the contents of the stimuli to change their emotional experience. ...
... For instance, after participants in the reappraisal condition were exposed to various stimuli that induce negative emotions, the participants were then encouraged to reinterpret the contents of the stimuli to change their emotional experience. Christou-Champi et al. [58] found that participants in the reappraisal condition had naturally regulated their emotions such as genuine expression after two weeks. This suggests that a structured intervention program can encourage coaches to automatically control for negative emotions and might be beneficial in helping coaches manage emotional labor. ...
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Thesis
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Emotion regulation is reflected in the reactions of the body: phenotypical patterns of autonomic nervous system (ANS) arousal like cardiac and electrodermal activity. Some data would propose that individuals who have difficulties with emotion regulation (or disorders characterized by emotion dysregulation) have a generalized over-reactivity and dysregulated recovery even after some non-trauma-related cues. Thus, psychophysiological reactivity to height could be used as a paradigm to test the dysregulation of the ANS and provide an objective measure to characterize some aspects of emotion dysregulation. This paradigm could be useful in complementing psychometric measures of mental well-being and illness, especially in populations where reliability or safety of psychometric measurement is limited due to linguistic or cultural factors. For Inuit in Quebec, the concept of emotion regulation ties closely to their ability to adapt to the environment while recognizing limited control over it and keeping hopeful for the future (e.g., resilience). Inuit have indicated that common rating scales for psychopathology are not culturally sensitive. in this case, psychophysiological measurement could be useful for both momentary assessment and in treatment (e.g., biofeedback), and could relatively easily and inexpensively be implemented through the use of virtual reality (VR) and photoplethysmography (PPG) devices. In this thesis, I describe the integration, evaluation, and testing of a reactivity testing paradigm, which aims to be a more culturally sensitive measurement. I provide both qualitative and quantitative data towards this non-trauma psychophysiological reactivity testing paradigm that uses heights to evoke both subjective (self-reported) and objective (skin conductance response and heart rate) arousal. I describe the initial results of the usefulness and feasibility of the paradigm in a sample (n=16) of healthy participants. I also outline the protocol for a future randomized controlled trial, which will test the reactivity paradigm as a complementary outcome. This work is part of a larger co-design project with an Inuit advisory committee towards culturally sensitive methods in mental health services using digital technology.
... Regarding phasic HRV, some studies have observed influences from self-regulatory skills (e.g., emotion regulation). For example, Christou-Champi et al. (2015) found that after three training sessions practicing the use of cognitive reappraisal, the emotion regulation training group had phasic HRV (RMSSD) increases while reappraising unpleasant images 55 . Other studies cited in a review from Balzarotti et al. (2017) found increases in phasic HRV when participants were instructed to suppress or reappraise their emotions while discussing an upsetting topic with another participant 56 or while viewing an anger-provoking film 57 . ...
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... It is possible that students with such experiences develop maladaptive emotion regulation strategies, such as suppression or rumination (Fischer, Forthun, Pidcock, & Dowd, 2007;Frederickson et al., 2018), which have not been examined in this thesis. Alternatively, while regulatory strategies are impacted by early interactions with caregivers (Moutsiana et al., 2014), the ability to develop adaptive emotion regulations strategies can improve over time (Charles & Carstensen, 2014;Christou-Champi, Farrow, & Webb, 2015). It is possible that over time, these students have improved their ability to modulate their cognitive and emotional responses to adverse experiences by using other emotion regulation strategies. ...
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