Anger is an emotion that goes through different levels of intensity, and when it gets too heavy, there are times that when we feel like lashing out or breaking down. A recent study shows that giving your emotion a label might help in curbing your reactions.

In a study titled “Unpacking Emotion Differentiation: Transforming Unpleasant Experience by Perceiving Distinctions in Negativity,” neuroscientists found that putting feelings into complex words can help individuals reduce the intensity of their distress and make them less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Proponents Todd Kashdan, Lisa Feldman Barrett, and Patrick McKnight called it “emotional granularity.”

An article on NPR reinforced these findings and mentioned that there are heavier words in certain cultures that can more specifically describe the type of anger one is feeling at the moment. For example, the Greek language assigns the word “orge” for a short-lived anger and “menin” for an emotion that lasts longer and is more intense. The Germans also have quite the powerful term “backpfeifengesicht” for something that means “a face that needs to be slapped.”

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A recent study shows that giving your emotion a label might help in curbing your reactions. Pictured: An eleven-week-old unnamed female lion cub snarls while standing in the Lion House at the San Francisco Zoo. Getty Images/Justin Sullivan

By translating an emotion into something more concrete, like a word, part of us gets to release the feeling and this lessens the impulse to physically react. In an interview with The Verge, Barrett said that emotions are largely brain-created and are not really something that “just happen.” For example, when a person scowls in reaction to something negative, it’s the brain that directs it to do so.

Barrett also added that an emotion is not likely to be felt until a word is assigned to it. She cited “schadenfreude” and said that even if a person felt that emotion, without knowing what that word is, the feeling will not be identified. However, once that same person gets introduced to the term and understands what it is, it tends to be triggered and then felt more easily.

With emotional granularity, the research said that humans are less inclined to hit something or someone because the word can help contain the reactions, mostly because they are already acknowledged. With that said, people become less inclined to binge drink or stress eat. When a person is able to identify and contain his or her anger, the better it will be to find solutions to handle the situation.