Feelings and emotions shift and change in a matter of minutes to hours, and if we allow our feelings to govern our decisions, we will always be cleaning up behind ourselves. Living without emotional awareness, and effective communication of our emotions can be the source of unnecessary stress, and it can also be avoided. Emotional awareness is the first step in raising our level of emotional intelligence. Below are some basic steps to raising your emotional awareness.
Learn what constitutes an emotion
It sounds like the most basic thing, but often when people are asked “How do you feel about that?” they respond, “Well, I think that (insert opinion here)."
An opinion is not an emotion/feeling. If we are going to become emotionally aware, we must first know what feelings/emotions are present. I recommend to go online and google “feelings charts.” There are a plethora of websites, resources, and materials that contain feeling words, feeling faces (if you are unsure what a particular feeling word really is), and other types of emotional cues.Increasing your emotions vocabulary will allow you to be able to identify the emotion when it comes.
Monitor for emotions
If you are not used to acknowledging your emotions or feelings, then this step will greatly benefit you in becoming aware of what feelings surface for you throughout the day. This step is simple; simply ask yourself several times a day (maybe every hour like clockwork), “How do I feel?” Then you may reference your emotions chart and choose one that fits. I recommend trying this exercise for a couple of weeks. You may not be able to do this every hour, but perhaps setting an alarm at lunchtime and then one before bedtime and in the morning first thing. This will get you in the habit of surveying yourself.
Acknowledging the Feeling
Once you get in the habit of monitoring for emotions, you want to begin to acknowledge when different emotions surface. Often times, we push emotions down to get through the day. It’s like, “I don’t need this right now” or “I can’t afford to feel this way”, or “If I can just make it through the day.”
Not acknowledging an emotion when it comes up…pushing the emotion down is more dangerous then letting it surface and be expressed. When we swallow emotions, we literally take them into our cells and that increases stress causing inflammation at the cellular level. What that ends up manifesting as is high blood pressure, cancer, headaches, insomnia, diabetes, and other physical ailments. Acknowledging the emotion at least frees you up to express it in an authentic way when appropriate.
Identify the emotion
Similar to monitoring emotions, you want to identify what the emotion is so that you can deal powerfully with it, and let it go. A great way to help you to identify when a specific emotion is surfacing is body sensations. Do you get tingling when you get happy? Do you feel a lump in your throat when you are sad? Do you feel tired? Do you get tension in the shoulders or a headache when you feel stressed or angry? Do you have butterflies in the stomach or chest tightness when you are afraid? These are just a few body sensations that happen in conjunction with specific emotions.
Getting aware is identifying what happens with you when certain emotions surface so that you can identify the emotions as they come and (again) deal with them powerfully.
Accept the Emotion without making it mean anything
This is the part that trips most people up. When we get an emotion, suddenly we are making it mean all types of things that it may not necessarily mean. This is when the thought – feelings vicious cycle begins and we take potentially detrimental action based on something that we probably made up in our minds.
Three great things we can do when an emotion comes up: Notice it, accept it (without making ourselves right or wrong about it), and then reflect on it (not stew or simmer, reflect). Reflecting gives you an opportunity to reach out to someone and bounce off of them the emotion and situation to help you to rationally think about the solution rather than emotionally take action.
Conclusion: Emotional awareness, while just one aspect of emotional intelligence is very valuable in shifting us to a more powerful way of being around our feelings. Once we are aware and powerfully dealing with the emotions, then we can communicate them with effectiveness and love.
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