Drama Games to Mindfully Work with Stress, Part I: The Emotion Walk

Posted: September 28, 2014 in Games
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I need not go into how prevalent and difficult stress can be, nor how kids are dealing with it at such young ages. Nor (methinks) do I need to do anything more than mention the significant impact that mindfulness can have in helping people work effectively with their stress—indeed, just look at the preeminent role played in the field by MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction). Given all of this, I recently adapted a series of drama games to all flow together as a little unit on mindfulness and stress. I’ll present each component in this unit as a separate post over the coming weeks. The first is the Emotion Walk:


  • Have some participants volunteer to come up and be the “actors”. If you have a small number of volunteers (say 1-4), you can have them up for the whole activity while the rest of the group is the mindful audience. If many people volunteer, 2 or 3 participants can come up every round or two, and you can rotate through all the volunteers over the course of the game.
  • Set up the space such that there’s an open area at the front that a small group can walk across while the rest of the group (the audience) is facing that area.
  • A few volunteers will line up at one end of the open space (side to side).
  • You will give them a certain emotion or mental-state to embody (some possibilities are listed below). When you say “go,” they will all simultaneously walk across the open space, attempting to manifest the emotion/state they were given in how they move.
  • The audience’s job is to carefully watch the walkers and try to identify common patterns across volunteers for each emotion/mental-state. For instance, when the feeling is “stressed,” they may notice that a majority of the volunteers exhibited some tightness in their motions.
  • Here’s a list of possible emotions/mental-states that can be used:
    • Sad
    • Happy
    • Angry
    • Peaceful
    • Spaced-out
    • Focused
    • Stressed
    • Relaxed
  • After each emotion/mental-state is exhibited with a walk, ask participants what they noticed. You may want to keep track of what they noted for each feeling on a whiteboard or easel, so you can refer back to it as the discussion continues.
  • After each related pair of emotions/mental-states, you can compare and contrast how they manifested in the volunteers’ body language. For instance, what was different about how a person feeling anger walked when compared to a person in a peaceful state?

Application Notes:

  • While I have used this activity to tackle the topic of stress (culminating with stressed/relaxed as the final walks), you can obviously use this to focus on other feelings—or else the topic of mindfulness-of-emotions in general.
  • When digging deeper into a particular set of feelings (in this case stress), return to the list of physical manifestations that the audience observed. You can go through each particular body-language detail and ask the participants to raise their hands if they’ve noticed their own bodies doing ________ when feeling ________.
  • This then leads into a discussion about how our thoughts and feelings have very real and significant manifestations in our bodies.
  • Moreover, mindful awareness of these manifestations can be a very powerful tool.
    • On the one hand, a focus on bodily sensation related to a feeling can give us a bit of distance from the swirling thought patterns that feelings can kick up without repressing whatever is arising.
    • On the other hand, as we use mindfulness get to know our own bodies and their responses to certain mental-states or emotions, we can learn to catch early physical signs of, say, stress arising. In doing so, it is often much easier to work with stress while it’s just getting started and still small rather than when it’s a full-blown mental-emotional-physical event.
  • Okay, so mindfulness helps us be aware of the arising of certain emotions or mental states. Then what? This is where the feeling pairs from the Emotion Walk activity come in. For example, what’s a possible antidote to stress? Well, look at the list of bodily manifestations that the audience came up with for the “relaxed” walk. What if one were to attempt to shift one’s body to exhibit some aspects of relaxation. Would it impact one’s mood?
    • Now there’s a question to play with mindfully!
    • In this session, you could have everyone in the group walk across the space—first manifesting stress and then manifesting relaxation, mindfully noticing how it feels. Discuss—do you think changing your body language can change your feelings?
    • Then you can ask participants to choose one bodily manifestation of relaxation and try enacting it the next time they feel stressed. Does it help?
    • Whatever the answers, the point is to mindfully experiment with one’s own body and mind, watching and learning all along the way.
  1. […] Drama Games to Mindfully Work with Stress, Part I: The Emotion Walk […]

  2. […] Drama Games to Mindfully Work with Stress, Part I: The Emotion Walk […]

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