The Emotion-Sensation Feeling Wheel is one of the most popular resources from my download catalog. Unlike a traditional feelings wheel (first published in 1982 by Gloria Wilcox and widely adapted by teachers, therapists, and other professionals since), my take on the feelings wheel, created in February 2020, includes a sensory element that can help people begin to understand emotions better by understanding how emotions are expressed through physical sensations in bodies.
Initially developed as a professional resource for therapists practicing sensorimotor psychotherapy and somatic therapy, this resource has found a home in offices and practices across the realm of mental health, from school guidance counselors to yoga teachers and from occupational therapists to psychotherapy practices for all ages.
Why has it been adopted so widely? Emerging brain research is clear: integrating emotion (feelings) with cognition (thinking) and body-based experiences (sensations) promotes resiliency, window of tolerance expansion, and recovery for people struggling with mental illness.
This article is a bit long, so I’ve created this quick roadmap to help you find what you need:
A Tool for Making Connections
In this reimagining of a standard feeling wheel, the words in the rings move not from simple-to-complex emotions but from emotions outward to the physical sensations that often accompany those emotions aligned in the middle circles. Not meant to be an instruction to tell people what they should feel in their body with each emotion, but rather, a conversation starter.
This version of the feelings wheel invites users to thoughtfully consider their own body’s emotion-based sensations. It’s a valuable part of growing awareness to respond to reading the wheel with, “Oh, that emotion doesn’t feel like that in my body at all. It feels like ____.” These conversations can facilitate healing in a powerful way by helping create mindful, conscious connections between emotion and perhaps-previously-unconscious sensory experience associated with that emotion.
Download a Color Printable PDF
This wheel is available in multiple formats, the most popular being this download of the basic PDF Emotion-Sensation Feeling Wheel, which includes the wheel in both color and black and white versions. Keep reading to order a print version, fill-in-the-blank versions, worksheets, and printed items for offices and classrooms.
Skip the Download and Order a Print:
I’ve partnered with Society6 to offer this as a high-quality print. This preprinted, full-color version is printed in high-resolution detail to make it easily readable. Order it in multiple sizes – including this giant wall poster perfect for office decoration or as a reference tool in classrooms.
Office-Friendly Ways to Display the Emotion Sensation Wheel
I release most of my artwork on a print-on-demand platform at the same time that I share it with my patrons. Because my Society6 storefront lets customers create several products with my artwork that print-on-demand when ordered, it’s been fun to see what products printed with the Emotion Sensation Feelings Wheel have been most popular. The most popular product? By a landslide, it’s this 18” x 18” canvas printed throw pillow. As pictures of it pop up on Instagram, I’ve enjoyed seeing this pillow in many therapist and counselor offices, where it’s both a comfort object and a valuable resource for reference.
Printable Worksheet of the Emotion Sensation Wheel
Not long after the initial publication of the Emotions Sensation Feeling Wheel, I had several requests for a blank version – with emotion names on the inner circles but empty space (for entering personalized body sensation descriptions) on the outer wheel. This worksheet is now available as a PDF in multiple sizes via the download below.
This download includes a PDF of fill-in-the-blank Emotion Sensation Wheels in various sizes, perfect for printing on one page, two pages, or on a giant poster.
- A 1-page 8.5”x11” worksheet for standard printing,
- An XXL Poster size printable for printing posters on a large format printer, and
- A 2-page tiled version that makes it possible to print an extra-large 11”x11” version at home with a standard printer (by taping two pages that each contains one half of the wheel together).
Download the Set Below:
Printing tip: For smooth, crisp lines on a standard 8.5 x 11 page, set the following in your printer settings: 1. select “fit to page,” 2. choose “high-quality printing.”
The XXL poster of the Emotion Sensation Feelings Wheel, in fill-in-the-blank style, is ideal for a classroom activity, a therapy group to collaboratively or individually discuss and fill out, or an intensive outpatient recovery (IOP) treatment program homework. The giant poster-sized printable can be printed locally through any company that prints posters. (For the best value, look for a printer that can print architectural prints. This type of printing is generally the best value for large black and white prints on average weight paper).
TIP: Everyone thinks a little differently! Effective teaching invites individuals to participate in a learning project in a way that makes sense for them. In my own work, I’ve worked with people who found that filing in this blank wheel with colors, using markers or crayons to color in sections, was more helpful than words.
Preprinted Blank Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel Posters
If you’d like to purchase BLANK preprinted Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel posters (either full-color original wheel or blank worksheet-style that are ready to unroll and fill out), both styles are coming soon to Amazon. The standard-weight paper posters are perfect for ready-to-go group activities that can accompany teaching or psychoeducation around how emotions and body sensations are connected.
Using with Different Age Levels
Sometimes I get questions about what age group the Emotion Sensation Wheel is most appropriate for. Because experiencing our emotions and our body is a human thing, not a developmental stage that’s exclusive to just kids or just adults, the Emotion Sensation Wheel can be a valuable tool for all age groups ranging from preschool (though, of course, younger kids need lots of help understanding a simplified explanation) up through senior citizens and elderly.
Printable Feelings Wheels for Kids
Kid’s Emotion Wheel
Generally, adults aren’t great at making room for kids to have complex emotions. When kids are very young, we tend to use easy, age-appropriate words to describe emotions (like happy, bad, etc.), but in many families, kids’ emotional vocabularies stay limited to these simplified emotions. An oversimplified vocabulary regarding emotions can make it harder for kids to communicate about emotions that naturally grow increasingly complex as they age. One way we can support kids in growing their vocabulary to describe feelings, developing their ability to sense and communicate their emotional state, and their ability to regulate emotion is through talking more about emotions and what it feels like to experience different emotions.
When kids can learn to recognize and describe their feelings, it’s easier for them to communicate their emotions to parents, peers, or caregivers. When kids can communicate their emotions to people who care about them, the people who care about them can respond with more empathy, care, and attunement. And when kids– or any of us for that matter– feel connected to people who are attuned to their emotions, they have the resources to grow into kinder, more confident, and more emotionally regulated people.
This pizza-themed emotion wheel is one of my newest resources for teaching emotional regulation in classrooms, at home, or in behavioral health settings. The colorful design is designed to be more engaging than a typical educational or clinical handout. This resource can help kids and parents connect, better understand emotions and how they relate to each other, and develop a broader vocabulary for describing their emotional experiences.
Read more about my Pizza Themed Feelings Wheel for Kids or download below:
As a bonus, the Pro Pack includes a worksheet with blank pepperonis for creating your own custom feelings wheel.
Kid’s Version of the Emotion Sensation Wheel
After using this wheel in practice for a while, I began working on a version specifically for younger kids. The bright colors of this kid’s version of an emotion wheel and simplified concepts are appropriate for introducing this concept to younger kids.
Learning to integrate body sensations and emotions can help grow the skills needed to help kids regulate their emotions (like calming down quickly after getting upset, not flipping their lid at minor upsets, and having the capacity to move between emotions in a healthy way). This tool can be a helpful teaching aid to help kids learn to start recognizing their own body-based cues that tell them when they need to ask for help, take a break, or seek care so that they can develop emotional awareness, mindfulness, and the ability to age appropriately regulate emotions.
Origins & History of the Feeling Wheels
1980 – Richard Plutchik publishes a “wheel of emotions” in his book EMOTION: A Psychoevolutionary Synthesis. Although structurally and linguistically different from the feelings wheel, this work was likely a precursor to Wilcox’s wheel.
1982 – Dr. Gloria Wilcox publishes a simplified version of the emotion wheel, in a format similar to how it is circulated today, in a journal article. (Later published in Wilcox’s book Feelings: Converting Negatives to Positives )
Exact Year Unknown – Kaitlin Robb, an English teacher, created a more complex version of Gloria Wilcox’s Feelings Wheel designed to help her teenage students with feeling-related vocabulary in their writing.
2015 – Geoffrey Roberts adapts Kaitlin Robb’s version of the feelings wheel for use in psychology contexts (favoring accurate emotion labeling over vocabulary development) and publishes the version to Imgur.
2020 – Modern Developments in neuroscience prompt the adaptation of the feelings wheel into an Emotion/Body Sensation wheel created by Lindsay Braman. This version matches emotions to their most commonly associated felt-sense in the body.
This resource was developed by adapting the original feelings wheel – first published in 1982 by Gloria Wilcox and widely adapted since – and merging it with modern concepts from neuroscience that have emerged through the 30 years worth of research since Gloria Wilcox’s publication. (Click here to review some of the research that informed the creation of the body-sensation-focused version of the Emotion Wheel).
Since 1982, we have learned just how integrated brains and bodies are. Previously, psychology was a study limited to the mind and emotions, but the more we learn about brains, the more we learn that the brain- and our emotions – are deeply integrated with our bodies. And, it seems, the more integrated we are (that is, the more aware we are of what is occurring in our body and what that means for us), the greater our capacity for recovery and resilience. When the brain and body are disconnected and dissociated from one another, it’s difficult to regulate our emotions, check-in with ourselves in ways we need to to stay safe, maintain boundaries, develop trust with others, and maintain healthy self-confidence.
The feelings wheel adapted to include physical sensations can help us and our students or clients take another step forward in their journey to do the important work of integrating and reconnecting brains and bodies for recovery and mental wellness.
How to Use the Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel
This wheel is a conversation starter, not a tool for diagnosis or assessment.
Trauma, Chronic Dieting, Childhood Neglect, Medical Trauma, Eating Disorders, and many other struggles can contribute to a reduction in the brain’s capacity to feel, notice, bring into awareness, and integrate sensations in our bodies. Developing a greater capacity to acknowledge, name, feel, express, and regulate our emotions cannot be separated from becoming more connected to the body sensations that accompany them.
Diet culture is one of the biggest opponents in the battle to reconnect the brain and body. After a lifetime of trying to ignore hunger cues, many individuals slowly grow increasingly numb to many body-based sensations. When we block, ignore, and repress hunger, our sensitivity to feel and read our body and the signals it sends us decreases across the board, not just in response to hunger. The problem is the sensations our body sends us are information that can help us live more richly, connected, safe, and integrated lives. Many body sensations are simply a byproduct of biological processes, but learning to interpret and translate them can help us make better decisions to care for both our physical and mental health.
The Emotion Sensation Feelings Wheel in Spanish (La Rueda De Emoción en Español)
Countless therapists, teachers, and individuals have let me know how helpful my Emotion Sensation Wheel has been as a tool to help people learn to recognize and talk about emotions through prompting thought about the physical sensations that accompany emotions. Now, I’m happy to announce it’s available in Spanish!
Free for personal use and for teachers, social workers, health care providers, and therapists in schools and non-profit organizations, this download includes 3 pages:
- A full-color page,
- A black and white version, and
- A blank worksheet version (in which people can fill out how each emotion feels to them in their own body).
Standard downloads print on a standard 8.5×11″ sheet of paper, while paid downloads (which fund the creation of more language-inclusive resources) include a bonus download big enough for mini-poster printouts up to 11″x13.″
Translated by: Karla Arredondo.
Rueda de sensación de emoción en español – Paquete de 8.5 “x 11”
In order to make this therapy resource accessible to therapists working in ESL communities in the United States and native speakers beyond US borders, this resource is being made available at no charge for individuals using it for personal use and for professionals working in non-profit organizations or schools. To download the Spanish Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel, pick one of the options above.
For Feeling Wheels in Chinese, Arabic, and more languages:
Would you like to see this feeling wheel or other illustrations from my portfolio available in another language? If you are bilingual and psych-savvy, contact me. I’d love to work with you on expanding the emotion wheel to even more languages.
Blank Feeling Wheel
As described above, this Feeling Wheel is available in a partially blank, open-ended format. This enables this version of the worksheet to be used as a traditional feelings wheel (with nuanced emotions described in the outer ring) or as a way for students, clients, or individuals doing their own personal work to use to name and identify the particular sensations that their body feels when they experience the matched emotion on the inner rings of the feelings wheel.
Download the PDF pack to get this blank emotion wheel in three sizes:
- An XL 11×11″ version split to print onto 8.5 x 11″ sheets, and
- An XXL version which you can have printed at a large-format printer near you.
What Types of Therapy use the Feeling Wheel?
Many therapy orientations use a version of the feeling wheel.
Most traditional models of psychotherapy and counseling emphasize putting language to feelings. While this is and always has been important, modern research shows us that connecting what we learn cognitively, through our left-brain, with our emotion-based right-brain, and with our somatic/sensory experience is essential. Sensorimotor therapy, DBT, RO-DBT, somatic psychotherapy, and other therapy models that integrate biofeedback (a fancy way of saying “what your body is telling you” often use a feeling wheel and may benefit from using the emotion sensation feeling wheel as an additional resource.
Got questions about the Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel, how it’s used, or the history of feeling wheels in the counseling and psychology world? Leave a comment below and we’ll be happy to research and answer for you as we seek to develop this page.
The Emotion Sensation Feeling Wheel is the creation of Lindsay Braman, who retains and holds all copyrights of this resource. For questions about commercial licensing and republishing, request more information via the contact form.