We feel emotions all day long, but how good are we at knowing what they are, why they’re here and what they’re doing to us?
Knowledge is power, so a person who can recognise their emotions, and know what to do with them, is a powerful person indeed.
You might be saying, of course I know how I feel. I’m happy, or I’m sad, excited, anxious, or depressed. But we tend to use the same words to describe our feelings again and again, and human emotions are so much more nuanced than that. We need to be specific.
The pictures below list emotion description words. Take a moment, remove all distractions, and pick out all the words that describe how you feel right now. Write them down. There’s no limit to how many you can choose but think carefully about each one to see how it fits with your experience.
Next, consider giving them a rating out of 10, with one being very mild and 10 being the strongest the emotion could possibly feel. This might sound simplistic but it can really help to learn about the strength of an emotion. For example, you might learn that you're a lot more confident about a situation than you had assumed. This step will also show you which emotions are coming out on top and which are bubbling under the surface, so we have an emotional experience hierarchy beginning to develop.
If you want to, you could write about what you think has triggered each emotion. You might or might not know, either way it’s fine. Maybe it was an event that took place, something that has been said or done, or not said or done. It could be related to a regret or a self-criticism that you have. If so, take note as self-criticism is something to keep an eye on and I’ll talk more about it later on this blog.
Now consider what each emotion feels like. Every emotion has a physiological aspect, so ask yourself- where do I feel this emotion in my body? Commonly we notice things like sweating, shaking, chills, shortness of breath, and ‘knots’ in the stomach. But you might notice other things too.
These physical aspects are worth paying attention to because they tell us a lot about how we can begin to process the emotion. For example, maybe it would help to regulate your breathing by practicing some deep slow breaths. Maybe going for a gentle walk will distract you from shaking whilst calming you physically, or maybe a run will use up some pent up energy and adrenaline. There are so many strategies to process emotion so I'll do a whole post on this later to ensure I do it justice. For now, we don't need to try and do anything to the emotions, the first step is just to get to know them.
So now you’ve begun practicing a skill that can serve you for life. I really encourage you to do this often, and it only needs to take a minute or two. It will be worth it!