Every morning at Coastside Leadership Academy we start our morning with what we call “check in and grounding”. This process starts with a walk in the forest and then our students choose a sit spot where we will begin our morning ritual. Our favorite sit spot is a chestnut tree where we spread out our yoga mats amongst its fallen leaves.
During check in and grounding we ask our students how they are doing and what is on their hearts and minds that day. We have found that Dr. Marc Brackett’s Mood Meter from his book Permission to Feel, is a great conversation starter. The Mood Meter is a graph of 100 different emotions that humans can feel. The emotions are categorized by pleasantness on the x axis and energy on the y axis, creating a grid (and also a math lesson!).
Each of our students has their own copy of the mood meter and they can easily pull it out of their notebook during check in. After a few minutes of looking at the meter, our students are able to decide what emotions they are feeling and communicate them to the group. Sometimes they choose one emotion to share and something they choose three or four.
We started this practice because of the research by Dr. Brene Brown showed that the average person can only articulate three emotions, happy, mad, and sad. If people do not have words to express how they are feeling then they are not able to have their needs met, so we are teaching our students to express their emotions by expanding their emotional vocabulary.
Using the Mood Meter is an opportunity for our community to connect with each other on two levels. The first is students are checking in with themselves to read their own emotions, building self awareness. The second is they are learning to understand the emotions of others. If a student selects “glum” as their emotion during check in, we are able to ask them what type of support they may need from the group during the day. At first, it was the teachers asking this follow up question about support, but after modeling for about a week, our students now ask how they can support one another. We created a circle of empathy that will be used beyond the school setting.
The Mood Meter is a helpful tool for teachers because if most of our students are feeling low energy or high energy, we are able to adjust our plans for the day. We are sensitive to when students are feeling low energy or tired, especially when it is the entire group. We offer compassion to our students on these days by letting a student sleep if they fall asleep during meditation, or eat a snack if they are hungry.
We are lucky that we are able to do our Mood Meter check in in nature, but the Mood Meter could be easily adapted to be used with teams and coaches, board meetings and executives, or any group setting. It is a safe way for people to be vulnerable with each other about their emotions and I have seen the benefits within our community. I highly recommend checking out Brackett’s book to learn more.