What is self-control and what is emotion regulation? How do they work; what psychological and brain mechanisms do they depend on? Why is voluntary control of psychological processes, such as staying focused, resisting distractions, managing a negative emotion, inhibiting rumination or stopping the mind from wandering, so difficult? And why does voluntary control of actions often fail? That is, for what reasons do we relapse into habits we no longer want to have, into various forms of addiction, or frequently fail to contain an inappropriate impulse or the expression of a potentially harmful emotion?
Are there techniques or exercises capable to improve self-control and emotion regulation? What psychological and brain mechanisms are they based on? How are they performed and what evidence of effectiveness exists in the scientific literature?
The Workshop on Self-Control and Emotional Regulation. Theories and Practices, aims to provide participants with knowledge of the main theoretical elements and models of explanations of the processes of self-control and emotion regulation, between neuroscience, psychosocial science and philosophy. At the same time, the Lab aims to teach exercises and techniques useful for improving self-regulatory capacity, including several Mindfulness based practices, illustrating its scientific basis and experimental verification of effectiveness.
At the end of the Workshop, the student should know and understand the main explanatory models of self-control and emotion regulation and will have a basic mastery of the principal and scientifically validated techniques, exercises and trainings for cognitive enhancement, self-control and emotional regulation.
If the number of participants will be sufficient, the Workshop may involve conducting an experimental study designed for measuring the impact of training on some basic variables of self-control, mood, impulsivity, and perceived stress level.

teacher profile | teaching materials


1. General neuroscience principles for understanding self-control and emotions.
- Brain and mind. Between biological evolution, heredity, environment and experience
- The maturation of brain circuits of emotion and voluntary control of behavior
- Attention, working memory, self-control
- How do you feel? Description of affective states and emotional literacy
- The experience of (dis)control of the mind

2. We become what we repeatedly do: the plasticity of the brain and behavior
- How the neuron and neurotransmission work
- Neuroplasticity and learning
- The different types of associative learning
- Construction and fixation of habits and automatisms
- Exploring memory
- Training attention with breathing

3. What is an emotion?
- Emotions as adaptive programs/ Emotions as constructs
- The main theories of emotion
- Human history and the evolutionary mismatch of emotional programs
- Basic meditation
- Remembered wellness and reactivated wellness

4. The regulation of emotions
- Introdutciont to the psychobiology of emotions
- Emotions and language, Recognizing and naming an emotion as implicit emotional regulation
- The different possible strategies of emotional regulation, adaptive/ dysfunctional
- Learning and modification of emotional response styles
- Naming emotions (Strengthening emotional vocabulary)
- Introduction to body scan
- STOP technique - Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed

5. Emotions and stress
- Brief history of the concept of stress, from pathophysiology, to the cognitive dimension of emotions
- The mechanisms of stress
- The impact of chronic stress on the brain and cognitive and executive functions
- Measuring perceived stress
- Relaxation training
- Gratitude journal

6. Cognitive training and contemplative practices. Mindfulness-based practices: scientific evidence and general introduction
- What is Mindfulness
- Risks and consequences of chronic distraction and mind wandering
- Mind wandering and negative mood
- Mindfulness and emotion regulation
- Mindfulness and neuroplasticity
- Basic Mindfulness Meditation
- Meditation in motion

7. Voluntary control of behavior: how it works, how it discharges, how it is enhanced
- The neural basis of self-control
- Attention and self-control
- Self-control and ego depletion (Ego depletion)
- Self-affirmation;
- Implementation of intentions

8. Voluntary control of behavior: how to enhance it
- Self-control can be trained and enhanced
- Physical exercise as a form of training self-control
- Ego depletion, Mindfulness and other exercises to train the "muscle" of self-control
- Basic Mindfulness Meditation
- Mindfulness meditation on emotions

9. Prosocial behaviors, cognitive empathy
- Prosocial behaviors, executive functions and self-control
- Prosocial behaviors, health and psychological well-being
- What is empathy 1: Cognitive empathy and brain correlates
- The Reflective Listening Technique;
- Cultivating loving kindness

10. Prosocial behaviors, affective empathy and compassion
- What is affective empathy and its brain correlates
- Empathy as an embodied simulation of others' emotions
- Neuroplasticity and the prosocial brain
- Compassion meditation
- Feeling connected

Core Documentation

Stefano Canali, Regolare le emozioni. Teorie e metodi per lo sviluppo e il potenziamento dell’autocontrollo. Carocci, Roma, 2021

Reference Bibliography

Walter Mischel, Il test del marshmallow. Padroneggiare l'autocontrollo. Carbonio editore, 2019 Franco Fabbro, La meditazione mindfulness. Neuroscienze, filosofia e spiritualità. Il Mulino, 2019 Charles Duhigg, Il potere delle abitudini. Come si formano, quanto ci condizionano, come cambiarle. TEA, 2014 Alan Wallace, La rivoluzione dell'attenzione. Liberare il potere della mente concentrata, Ubaldini, 2008 Kathleen McDonald, Come meditare. Una guida pratica. Edizioni chiara luce, 1999 Stefano Canali, Pratiche basate sulla mindfulness nel trattamento delle dipendenze, in Cristiano Chiamulera, Mauro Cibin (a cura di) Aftercare & Post-Prevention nelle Addiction. Verso il benessere. Publiedit, 2019

Type of delivery of the course

The course includes 10 theoretical-practical classes of 3 hours each, each divided into three parts. The first part is a theoretical introduction, aimed at explaining the theoretical and scientific foundations behind one of the different exercises for enhancing self-control, executive functions and emotion regulation provided in the course program and the experimental research on its effectiveness. The second part of each class provides instructions for performing the practice and its actual execution. Finally, the third part of each class is intended for discussion on the experience of the practice and the theories on which it is based.

Type of evaluation

completion of at least 75% of the cognitive-behavioral activities and practices (short writing exercises to enhance various psychological functions, short audio-guided concentration and meditation practices) assigned after each of the ten classes. The expected workload for carrying out the assigned exercises and practices is about 10 minutes per day for 6 days per week