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5 Ways to Become Better Aware of Your Feelings

If you are like me, you tend to have a busy day and a full to-do list. Workdays look like a two-hour commute and a ten-hour shift, only to squeeze time in with your children, pets, or friends before crashing into bed.

Days off typically look worse because I need to squeeze in the missed chores, dirty toilets, grocery runs, quality family time, and, if I’m lucky, a few exercise sessions and nutritious meals. And like me, I bet you do not have “reflect on your feelings” on that to-do list. However, this simple task may be the missing key to your life balance and overall well-being.

What are feelings and why are they important?

Feelings and emotions are basic building blocks of who you are. Beginning in infancy, you begin to express and feel emotions by crying, laughing, and facial expressions. Later, you begin to develop emotional awareness, or the ability to identify and name your emotion and also the root cause of that feeling. Like any skill, this will be developed at different rates and levels by each individual.

Feelings are a normal experience for each and every one of us yet will be individualized to each of our own abilities to comprehend and cope with those feelings. Your feelings will influence every choice you make or interaction you have.

You will process information and experiences based on your emotions felt at the time of the event. If you fail to be in touch with your feelings, your relationships will lack connection and often involve conflict.

What are signs that you are struggling?

A lack of awareness of your feelings can happen to anyone. It can be easy to forget to slow down and recognize how you feel throughout the day.

Some signs to watch out for that indicate you are not aware of your feelings are:

  • Getting into arguments often, both professionally and socially.

  • Experiencing a lot of outbursts or overreacting, particularly when faced with difficult emotions or traumas.

  • Deflecting blame or making excuses a lot.

  • Having underdeveloped listening skills.

  • A lack of coping skills and strategies for everyday situations.

  • Over-the-top confidence, especially in situations that make you nervous.

  • Controlling every single detail. Focusing on every detail may indicate that you are avoiding dealing with a separate issue that is bugging you.

  • Getting irritated or angered easily. This may indicate you are feeling insecure or threatened but have not processed it.

5 ways to become better aware of your feelings.

The importance of being aware of your feelings is immense. Self-awareness affects your mental health, interpersonal relationships, coping abilities, and success in school and the workplace.

Despite feelings being a universal experience, some people will develop them swiftly or more masterfully. Thankfully this skill can be developed and strengthened over time with routine mindfulness and practice.

Self-awareness can be practiced:

  1. By habitually pausing to examine how you are feeling and why throughout the day and giving a name to your emotions - journaling might assist you in identifying patterns and processing your emotions.

  2. By rating the intensity of your emotions using a 1-10 scale where 1 is the least intense and 10 is the most intense. This will help you process the emotion and provide insight into your feeling.

  3. By sharing your emotions with those that you trust, such as a friend or family member, or with a professional such as a life coach or therapist. This will help you exercise putting your feelings into words.

  4. By practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises - proven to help calm you, gain awareness, and improve your focus; progressive muscle relaxation - done by first clenching and then unclenching specific muscle groups in rhythm with your breath; and meditation - this ancient and proven technique can either be done independently or by listening to a guided meditation.

  5. By participating in an activity that will calm and comfort you. This can range from a variety of things, such as a cup of tea, a bubble bath, wearing your favorite comfy sweater, spending time with your pet, or cuddling with a partner.

How will increased feeling awareness benefit me?

The benefits of becoming more aware of your feelings include:

  • Strengthened relationships

  • Feeling more connected

  • Healthier coping strategies

  • Possibly managing some mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse

  • Better managing your stress, which in turn can improve your sleep, enhance your immune system, lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, and let you focus on more important aspects of life.

Becoming better aware of your feelings will lead to many positive changes in your life. From lower stress to better relationships, the benefits abound when you learn to recognize, process, and maintain your emotions. This will ultimately develop a happier, more balanced, and fulfilling sense of well-being.