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How to understand your emotions

Do you want to better understand your emotions so you can regulate and communicate them?

First things first, we need to build emotional awareness, and self awareness. Basically, that is your ability to accurately answer the question: 'How am I feeling right now?'

BONUS ACTIVITY: give yourself space, compassion, and understanding for whatever the answer is, and honour the emotions and thoughts that come from that.

Research has shown that people who label their emotions with a high degree of specificity are able to regulate their emotions more effectively.

The more awareness you have of what is happening in your internal world, the better you can differentiate between emotional experiences, so you can translate what's going on in your external world.

The more complex emotions get the more important it becomes to be able to describe them, so building your awareness and emotional vocabulary is key.

Let me give you a step by step...

Take a little time and space.

  • Pause. Slow down

  • Acknowledge that a big emotion is coming up for you. Know that all of them pass eventually.

  • Lead with curiosity and not judgement.

  • Think of emotions as messengers, signals, indicators. Take time to figure out what it's telling you.

  • Approach the emotion with compassion, rather than avoiding it.

Apply awareness.

  • What thoughts are triggering this emotion?

  • What do you feel in your body? Where do you feel it? For example: tension, increased heart rate, sweaty palms.

  • What are the thoughts and feelings making you want to do? Emotions are associated with certain action urges. For example: fear = avoidance; joy = an urge to connect.

Then, get specific.

  • Specify the feeling. Name it.

  • If you haven't come across it already, Google 'emotions wheel' if you are having trouble naming it. See which one hits the most.

  • Build your emotional vocabulary. For example: sad could really mean ashamed, guilty, lonely, remorseful, etc.

  • Try "I am feeling/experiencing ......"

Now add acceptance and self-compassion.

  • Remember you're not the emotion, you are the one experiencing the emotion.

  • Offer yourself warmth and understanding (the way you would to a good friend).

  • Decide if you can learn from it, and if so, what?

  • When you are ready, release it and let it go.

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