Emotion Regulation: Why it Contributes to Academic Success


Ok, I will warn you in advance, today’s post is pretty PsychNerdy, but so important to your success as a college student; and really, it is important to your success as a human being.

Emotion Regulation is the platform from which you launch all of your academic skills. It’s true! Even researchers are finding this.

  • “Students who can act on their emotions, trying to control them, tend to present better academic performance” (Pekrun, 2006; Pekrun et al., 2011).
  • “How people regulate emotions affects their relationships, well-being, and stress” (Gross, 2002; Hochschild, 1983).
  • “Individuals differ in their ability to regulate emotions, some choosing more successful strategies than others” (Mayer & Salovey, 1997; Salovey & Mayer, 1990).

Emotion Regulation

Now are you Curious?!?!

Well, let’s get started with describing it. Emotion regulation is the ability to regulate emotions by modulating emotional experience to attain desired affective states and adaptive outcomes. Translation: learn the language of your emotions, what they are telling you, listen to the message, learn how to apply strategies that help you calm down and focus with the goal of successfully completing the task at hand.

SPOILER: It’s PsychNerd Time!

My favourite time 🙂

Brain Nerd

In one study, college students who scored higher on an assessment of their ability to  regulate emotion reported having more positive relationships with others; less conflict and frustration in their relationship with a close friend; and stronger connections, affection, and support in their relationship with a parent (Lopes, Salovey, & Straus, 2003). So, emotion regulation helps in building stronger relationships, which is very important in navigating the college environment.

Here are some of the benefits of college relationships:

  • Knowing people in your class can help you gain access to notes, create supportive study groups, ask questions when you don’t understand and help you to feel a sense of belonging in your classroom and your programs.
  • Having positive relationships with your professors/instructors can help you to feel confident enough to approach them with questions and clarifications when you are having difficulty with the coursework. You can even ask for extensions if needed!

So, I assume you are wondering…
“well, great, how do I learn to manage my emotions!??!”

I am so glad you asked!

Process Model of Emotion Regulation (Gross, 1998)

EmotionsSuper nerdy, but please give me a chance to explain 😉

People can learn to regulate their emotions by:

  1. Situation Selection: choosing situations to enter (or not) based on their expected emotional outcomes,
  2. Situation Modification: modifying those situations once they are in them,
  3. Attentional Deployment: directing their attention to specific features of the situation,
  4. Cognitive Change: changing their appraisals, how they view a situation,
  5. Response Modulation: altering their physiological, experiential, and behavioural responses.


Process Model of Emotion Regulation

Feeling PsychNerdy?!!?

If you are feeling really nerdy and inspired, check out this interview with the amazing Dr. James Gross. He explains the Process Model of Emotion regulation very well…because it is his model 🙂

In the Coming Weeks…

I will be blogging about all the cool ways you can learn to regulate your emotions. I will be sharing different strategies that come from highly supported therapeutic techniques. Here are some highlights:

  • Acts of Kindness (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, et al., 2005)
  • Aerobic Laughter Intervention (Beckman et al., 2007)
  • Behavioural Activation (Mazzucchelli et al., 2010)
  • Best Possible Self (King, 2001)
  • Character Strength (Seligman et al., 2005)Feelings are Not Facts.png
  • Gratitude Visit (Seligman et al., 2005)
  • Guided Imagery (Watanabe et al., 2006)
  • Hope Therapy (Cheavens et al., 2006)
  • Intensely Positive Experience (Burton & King, 2004)
  • Mindfulness- based Therapies (Kabat-Zinn, 1990; Segal et al., 2002)
  • Quality of Life Therapy (Frisch, 2006)
  • Reminiscence Intervention (e.g., Pinquart & Forstmeier, 2012)
  • Solution-Focused Coaching (e.g., Spence & Grant, 2007)


If I haven’t sold you yet on the value of Emotion Regulation…Please take a moment to watch this amazing TedTalk.

“We’ll go to the doctor when we feel flu-ish or a nagging pain. So why don’t we see a health professional when we feel emotional pain: guilt, loss, loneliness? Too many of us deal with common psychological-health issues on our own, says Guy Winch. But we don’t have to”

Some Advice to Get You Thinking

Ride the Wave

Please know that there are counsellors in your community that are available at low or no cost. Also, your post-secondary institutions have counsellors, for free, waiting for you to connect 🙂

At Mohawk, we have a great counselling team that is very passionate about helping students, so contact us! counselling@mohawkcollege.ca or call 905-575-2211 to book an appointment.

Emotions are just little communication tools trying to tell you something

…learn to listen, communicate back and create a plan of action 🙂

New Mindset

Mindset, Emotion Regulation and Living Your Best Life

Another instalment in the Emotion Regulation = Academic Success Series.

Ok, I am going to be a bit of a butt kicker today. Probably because I have spent my entire week repetitively kicking my own but; trying to keep the motivation alive and moving. Sometimes we just need to clear out the mental clutter and create a mindset that works for us. Really, who doesn’t feel awesome when they are effective and taking control of their lives? We have to seize the moment that passion meets motivation and get going. Today, I would like to talk a little more about a strategy that can give your mindset a little nudge in the right direction.

Here are the ground rules, for today, to get you in the best state of mind:

Shift to Warm Fuzzies

I know! Totally not what counsellors generally say, but today we are honing in on our ideal mindset for getting stuff done. Have you ever noticed when you choose to describe a situation in only positive terms that it makes you feel better about the event or, even sometimes, the person that you are talking about? Let’s do it, let’s learn how to create a beneficial mindset today 🙂

Let’s start with a Video Snack to set the stage.

This one’s for you Kelsey C! …because you said you love the TedTalks 🙂

The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong | Amy Morin

Amy’s article, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” introduced the world to the bad habits that can keep us from being mentally strong. Her article was reprinted and shared millions of times as it became a viral sensation. Within a few days, her list was republished on Forbes.com, where it became one of their most read articles of all time with 10 million views. Check out her TEDx Talk…simply fantastic!

Nerdy, Nerdy PsychNerdy Time!

Brain Nerd

Sometimes it is hard to get out of thinking traps and focus on the things that make us mentally stronger. Yes, building a new habit is hard, but really, are you not tired of feeling crappy about yourself and your life at times? I know that I have to work hard to get out of those traps sometimes, so I challenge you to find a new approach, develop a new mindset and create a life that even you are envious of 🙂

Here is a place to start…

Researchers, Burton & King (2004), ran an experiment that was looking at enhancing positive mood and health. Check out their journal article, The health benefits of writing about positive experiences: the role of broadened cognition, for more information. The theory that informed this experiment’s design was The Broaden and Build Theory of Positive emotions (for the really PsychNerdy ones, see below for a link).

What they did:

  • They took 90 post-secondary students and split them into 2 groups: experimental (intervention) and control (no intervention)
  • For 3 days, both groups were asked to come to the lab and write for 20 minutes. They took a survey about their mood before and after writing.
  • The control group was asked to write, in detail, about their plans for the day, their shoes and a description of their bedroom.
  • The experimental group was asked to write about Intensely Positive Experiences (IPEs). See the directions below.

What they found:

Three months later…

  • Writing about IPEs was associated with enhanced positive mood.
  • Writing about IPEs was also associated with significantly fewer health center visits for illness, compared to those in the control group.
  • Writing about your day, your shoes or your bedroom has no significant effect on enhancing your health and positive outlook (you probably guessed that!).



Do you want to write about your shoes or would you like to change your Mindset?

I thought you might say that 🙂

Start Today!

Writing About Intensely Positive Experiences

Here are the directions from the researchers, Burton & King (2009), to get you started:

“Think of the most wonderful experience or experiences in your life, happiest moments, ecstatic Positivemoments, moments of rapture, perhaps from being in love, or from listening to music, or suddenly ‘‘being hit’’ by a book or painting or from some great creative moment. Choose one such experience or moment. Try to imagine yourself at that moment, including all the feelings and emotions associated with the experience. Now write about the experience in as much detail as possible trying to include the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that were present at the time. Please try your best to re-experience the emotions involved”.

Feelin’Super PscyhNerdy?

Check this out:

Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions by Barbara L. Fredrickson or even check out Wikipedia for a better idea of this theory.  Pretty cool stuff!

Everyday is a conscious effort

I am thrilled and  grateful for all the wonderful comments that I have been receiving from readers. Thank you so much for your feedback and support!


Dr. Heather Drummond,  C.Psych.

Psychologist * Passionate Advocate for Flourishing * Human Muddling Through



Bortoletto, D.  and  Boruchovitch, E. (2013). Learning Strategies and Emotional Regulation of Pedagogy Students. Paidéia (Ribeirão Preto) [online]., vol.23, n.55, pp. 235-242. ISSN 0103-863X.  Http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1982-43272355201311.

Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281–291.

Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2002). Wise emotion regulation. In L. Feldman Barrett & P. Salovey (Eds.), The wisdom in feeling: Psychological processes in emotional intelligence (pp. 297–319). New York: Guilford Press.

Hochschild, A. R. (1983). The managed heart. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lopes, P. N., Salovey, P., & Straus, R. (2003). Emotional intelligence, personality, and the perceived quality of social relationships. Personality and Individual Differences, 35, 641–658.

Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Frenzel, A. C., Barchfeld, P., & Perry, R. P. (2011). Measuring emotions in students’ learning and performance: The Achievement Emotions Questionnaire (AEQ). Contemporary Educational Psychology,36 (1), 36-48. doi: 10.1016/j.cedpsych.2010.10.002 [ Links ]

Pekrun, R., Goetz, T., Titz, W., & Perry, R. P. (2002). Academic emotions in students’ self-regulated learning and achievement: A program of qualitative and quantitative research. Educational Psychologist, 37 (2), 91-105. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3702_4 [ Links ]

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination,Cognition, and Personality, 9, 185–211.

Salovey, P., Mayer, J. D., & Caruso, D. (2002). The positive psychology of emotional intelligence. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 159–171). New York: Oxford University Press.


  1. As a student, this article is eye opening to the fact that our emotions can most of the time get in the way of the way we study. I agree that managing our emotions is a major part of being a successful student and relying on the different support systems in your life- personal, community based or school based. Great read!

  2. I definitely agree that having a connection with your professor can affect your learning. I am currently experiencing this in one of my classes this semester. In the ECE program we learn a lot about emotion/self regulation so it was interesting to read about it from the education perspective.

  3. This information is important as it pertinent to my future in the human services field. We always need to keep our emotions in check so this was really helpful!

    1. Hi Stephanie! Oh I so agree! Being in a Human Service field, helping others, hearing their stories of pain and triumph, can be very draining. We do need to learn to manage our our emotional state, take care of ourselves, so that we can give the best of our professional ability. Thanks again for your comments, very insightful 🙂

  4. Very interesting. Something to definitely reflect on. Being in the ECE field this is something we are always checking to see if children can do, but often we forget this is also something we as educators should be able to regulate.

  5. I find this post quite relevant to the way I am currently feeling regarding anxiety and stress now that the last part of the semester is approaching. I liked the poster about riding the waves of your emotions rather than pushing them away, I plan to practice those tips in my daily life.

    1. Hi Chelsea! Thanks for your response. Yes, as the semester rolls on, anxiety does rise. I am so glad that you found the “riding the emotional wave” tip helpful 🙂 I would love to hear more about how it has worked for you this semester. It is a good one!

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