We don’t plan our emotions, whether it’s anger, or happiness, or fear. They just show up, unbidden.

In our work life, we don’t wake up one day and decide to lash out at a co-worker. We may not even be aware that we’re angry. But harsh words spill out, and the damage is done.

What if we had a sensor to tell us when our emotions are building up—a type of emotional seismometer that alerts us before we say or do something we’ll regret?

In an earlier post we learned how wearable devices could give us insight into our stress level. Now we’re seeing signs that future wearables will alert us to our emotional state.

The Feel wristband, which was revealed at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, is billed as a Fitbit for your emotions. Another product on the horizon is Zenta, a wearable device designed to measure our emotions throughout the day and show how they change with our activities and surroundings.

These tech entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the science of emotions, which manifest in our bodies as well as our minds. Look at what happens to our body when we’re afraid:

  • Our breathing rate increases.
  • Blood flow increases to large muscle tissue (making it easier for us to escape if needed).
  • Skin temperature drops because surface blood flow is constricted.
  • We perspire more—as evidenced by sweaty palms before a presentation.

Wearables of the future will be able to measure all of these changes in our bodies and give us a read on our emotional state. Sounds promising, right?

The reality is a bit more complicated. Our emotions are complex, made up of thoughts, sensations, and feelings. Even scientists don’t fully understand how each emotion changes our physiology. It’s unlikely that a consumer wearable would provide an accurate measure of our emotional state over time.

What they can provide is a data point and an indication that something significant may be happening. We know that being aware of a negative emotion is the first step in managing it. In fact, noticing, analyzing, or labeling an emotion can help loosen its grip. And the sooner we’re aware of the emotion, the greater the chance we can manage it.

Emotions also provide clues to the way situations and people affect us. Does a particular colleague make you agitated? Do certain topics in meetings get you riled up?

These negative emotions indicate that you feel threatened, and asking yourself why will help you understand what’s important to you. If your boss’s micromanagement makes you angry, for example, that’s an indication you value autonomy.

But let’s not forget about positive emotions—the moments of joy and laughter that pepper our day. Positive emotional experiences are the most important building blocks of our well-being. They help us develop resilience so we aren’t undone when bad things happen. They help us connect with others in meaningful ways.

We tend to forget these positive feelings because negative emotions dominate; that’s how evolution prepared us for survival. An emotion-sensing wearable could help us be mindful of the good things that happen in our day.

At CCL, we eagerly await this new era of wearables and the promise they hold for the emotional awareness and development of leaders.

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