Noticing, recognizing and understanding our emotions is an important part of growing up. Emotional awareness is a skill that impacts the way we think about ourselves and how others perceive us, as well. We are better equipped to navigate our friendships and other relationships, successes, disappointments, conflicts with others, and much more when we understand our feelings. This awareness has the potential to affect multiple areas of our lives – our time with family, in the classroom, at a job and time spent with friends. So how do you practice improving this skill? The following tips will help!
Notice your emotions
Get into a habit of noticing how you feel at different points throughout the day. Designate a couple times a day to check in with yourself about how you are feeling. Did you just get a grade back from a test? Did you just finish catching up with a friend? Have you been busy working on multiple assignments all day? Are you rushing to get to work? How do these, and your own personal experiences throughout the day, make you feel? You can write some of the feelings you notice into a notebook or your phone or simply think them to yourself. Most importantly, carve out some time to notice how you feel. Emotional awareness is like a muscle, the more you practice using it the stronger it will get.
Try to notice others' emotions
Have you ever thought about how often we say things like “Jim seems really tense today”, “Joan looked really happy after she got her term paper back”? We notice and make guesses about other people's feelings all the time in the normal course of events. Not only that, whenever we read a story, or watch a show or a movie we notice things about how the characters are feeling (and maybe even how the story/show/movie is making us feel). So much of this happens for most of us without us really thinking about it. But if you take some time to notice these feelings and put them into words it will make you more aware of others and yourself. As we said, noticing emotions in others (and how this makes you feel) can make you a more careful observer or others and yourself.
Share your feelings with others
It can be really helpful to share feelings with others and ask them about their feelings. It is a really valuable way to understand yourself and your friends better – and to build stronger connections with others. Once in a while it can be great to say to a friend or classmate something like, “I thought that exam was really unfair and it made me tense during the test and a little angry afterwards (yes, it is possible to have two feelings at once!), what did you feel about it?” This can help you to understand what others are feeling. Sometimes people might have very different reactions to the same situations. Examining, comparing and discussing our reactions helps us to relate more thoughtfully to others.
We do all the things we’ve described above all the time. Most of the time we don’t notice it – but the more you do, the better you get at it! And you’ll probably find that your relationships with others will improve as a result.