10 Tips to Help You Learn to Identify and Express Your Feelings
Have you ever wondered just how many feelings can you name? If you are like me and would often incorrectly name, push away, or not even try to dig down deep to find out your true feelings then these tips may be helpful. Check out some ways to help you identify and express your true emotions beyond the basic happy, sad, and mad. I know identifying and labeling feelings or emotions can be a challenging, that was until I found this easy to follow feeling wheel.
If you are like me who need some guidance identifying and verbalizing feelings, then check out 10 great practical tips in learning to become more emotionally intelligent.
- Name that Feeling
I read a recent article that stated that the average adult can only name 8 feelings. On one hand I thought that was somewhat low, but then I began to think back to my childhood and remembered how many feeling words I used. For most, identifying feelings is a challenge. If I had to list the feelings that pop into my head would be happy (peace/joy), sad, lonely, mad/angry, scared, excited/silly, disgust and anxious. Sometimes I would go around just feeling sad all the time. And sometimes to the point of just feeling numb because I would deny and refuse to address my feelings by pushing them away.
Have you ever heard of a feeling wheel? This feeling wheel is my favorite as I feel it is simplified and easily able to be understood. There are many different types of feeling wheels however I found this one from the Anxiety Toolbox from Ohio University. There are a whopping 72 feelings on this chart that can be identified that can help us link to find our primary feelings and become more active in taking control of your emotional health. At first it seemed trivial for me to stop and take the time to refer to my feeling wheel when I was feeling sad about my poor parenting choices, I recognized that the fundamental feelings were those of guilt and remorse. I would often feel anxious but with the help of the feeling wheel I soon learned that this feeling of anxiety is from being overwhelmed, often because of not being organized or signing up for too many sports activities.
Do you think the feeling wheel can help you identify and be able to verbalize any underlying feelings?
- Talk to Someone.
Call a friend, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and tell them how you are feeling. It is very therapeutic to share your feelings with a trustworthy person, like a friend, counselor, or a support person. If you do not have a support system, try your local church or a find a local meetup group nearby, which you can find by searching online in your area.
- Recognize Your Body Reactions.
Our bodies are constantly informing us of our emotions. Our bodily reactions are linked to our thoughts and feelings. One of the biggest ways that I can tell that I am stressed is I start to feel heart palpitations and begin to sweat. When I get overwhelmed, I begin to get headaches and stomach aches. Everyone’s body reacts differently and taking a moment to be still to notice our bodily reactions is imperative. There is usually a physical symptom or cue that is linked to our immediate emotional reactions
- Stop and Be Still
Taking a few moments to stop, be still in the moment and think about our current experience is very important. If we are still, we can focus on the situation, the words we are saying to others and ourselves. We can notice our physical reactions as well as perceptions and surroundings.
Writing your feelings down can be very therapeutic. Taking a few minutes to write down your current feelings, perceptions, mood, triggers, and other thoughts can be quite helpful. Often it is helpful to write down how an outsider would perceive the situation. You can review your journal to see if there are patterns of behavior.
- Listen to Music
Listening to music can elicit feelings. Sometimes we have numbed ourselves to our primary feelings, so songs my bring thoughts and feelings about situations in our lives. Bringing up these thoughts and perceptions can help us to identify feelings. In addition, the songwriters may be able to use words or phrases in their songs to help identify what you are feeling.
- Be Creative
Drawing, playing an instrument, being in your “zone” may bring thoughts and feelings. Write poems, write songs, write a book, create art. Story telling is very helpful for adults and children. Sometimes being creative can help elicit themes to review, which may lead to identifying emotions and patterns in behavior.
- Be an Investigator
Although we know that feelings are neither right nor wrong, perceptions can be wrong, so writing how an outsider would perceive the situation can beneficial. Ask yourself questions about the situation. For example, ask yourself, what was going on at the time? Why am I crying? What was my body feeling? If I had to give this feeling a name, what would it be?
- Don’t Judge Your Feelings
Don’t be so hard on yourself. We often tend to overanalyze ourselves and our situations and will begin to label our feelings much worse. I know I tend to overanalyze everything including my feelings. For instance, during this time of quarantine I started to become sad and even depressed. I would judge myself and my own feelings telling myself “Its stupid for you to be feeling this way. You should just be grateful, look what all you have.” So calling my feelings stupid and worthless is ultimately detrimental as it does not help us progress in healing.
Taking a moment to pray and reflect is valuable. We can often hear our thoughts more clearly when we pray and take time to reflect through prayer or meditation. One idea is to keep your phone by you so you can write your feelings down in the note section of your phone