Developing Emotional Awareness

Emotional Awareness is like a muscle, the more you practice using it, the stronger it gets!

Teen Healthy Mind – Exploring Emotions – Developing Awareness

How to Develop Emotional Awareness

Written by Violaine Guéritault, Ph.D.

Emotional Awareness is a skill that you can also choose to develop, shape, cultivate, and expand purposely. When you do so, you quickly find out that emotional awareness allows you to learn how to relate to your emotions in a more constructive manner. It helps you become fully aware of what your needs are, what you want or do not want, and of the powerful impact your emotions can have on your body. Some examples include when your emotions cause your heart to race, or your head to hurt, or your shoulders and your back to tense up and become painful.

Most importantly, emotional awareness helps you to not fall into the trap of judging yourself harshly, as you may do sometimes, when you feel negative emotions like anger, shame, or guilt. Such negative emotions are so unpleasant that we all tend to want to avoid them, hoping that if we ignore them they will somehow go away. But this strategy usually results in the exact opposite because negative emotions are like toddlers – the more you ignore them when they want your attention, the more they ask for it.

Instead of giving yourself a hard time and thinking you shouldn’t feel a certain way, it’s better to notice and acknowledge how you feel. Facing and addressing your negative emotions will give you the power and the insight you need to not only understand why you feel a certain way, but also to move past your difficult feelings while allowing them to dissipate and thus lose their power over you.

As you can see for yourself, emotional awareness is an incredible life skill, and the good news is that anyone can develop and benefit from it, including you. It does for sure take practice, but the results are very much worth the effort. Emotional Awareness is like a muscle, the more you practice using it, the stronger it gets.

7 Ways to Develop Emotional Awareness

#1 – Practice Mindfulness

The starting point is undoubtedly the practice of Mindfulness. Mindfulness will help you develop a wide range of skills, including one of the greatest importance: awareness. Awareness is the key because it will allow you to become aware of your own emotions. And the moment you become aware of them you can learn to relate to them in a more positive and constructive manner.

#2 –Tune in to how you feel

Practice checking in with yourself and tuning in to how you feel in various situations throughout your day. Do you feel excited or hopeful about a new project, or do you feel sad and frustrated over a disagreement with a friend? Learn to tune in to the emotions you experience in your day. This will strengthen your ability to be aware of what goes on inside and outside of you.

#3 – Make noticing your emotions a habit

Once you’ve become aware of an emotion, try to make noticing it a regular habit. It’s important that you learn that it’s all about noticing and observing your emotions, not judging them.Mindfulness will help you practice being a mere observer, capable of withholding judgment and interpretations such as “this is good” or “this is bad.” Then practice naming that emotion. Finally, notice that each emotion passes and makes room for the next experience. This will teach you to go with the flow of things and to appreciate the inner peace that comes with this form of acceptance.

#4 – Share your feelings

Share your feelings with the people you trust and care most about and who are closest to you. This will help you learn to put your feelings into words. The ability to express your emotions verbally is a very important skill that will allow you to always find the support you need, when you need it the most.

#5 – Be a careful observer

Practice noticing emotions in others and how their emotions make you feel. This will train you to become a more careful observer and will develop your empathy which is a beautiful and very valuable skill.

#6 – Be kind to yourself

Be kind to yourself and take good care of yourself by finding an activity that helps you feel better in the moment: talk to a good friend you know will support you, go for a run or a walk in nature if possible, create something, lie down with your eyes closed and listen to soothing and calming music, or watch an uplifting movie. This list is not exhaustive. Find your own calming and appeasing activity that will remind you how important it is to be kind to yourself.

#7 – Breathe, relax, and most importantly, learn to meditate

If despite all your efforts, you get to a point when you feel totally overwhelmed by your emotions, then it is time for you to reach out for help. You can talk to a trusted adult, parent, or family member and ask them for support. You can also choose to talk to your guidance counselor, your school psychologist, a social worker or find a therapist who will listen to you, understand you, support you and help you through this difficult time. Never hesitate to ask for help. Always remember that reaching out for help is the greatest gift of self-compassion you can give yourself, a gift that you fully deserve.

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