Are you the type of person who automatically responds "good" anytime someone asks how you're doing — even if you're having the worst day of your life? Most people are.
And while that might seem like a harmless enough issue, it can cause serious problems that touch every corner of your life. Emotional honesty can bring us together.
But what happens when you don't even know how you actually feel? With 27 unique emotions, there's a lot to unpack, after all!
It isn't always easy to figure out what you're feeling, so let's look at some simple ways you can master the art of identifying feelings.
Are Feelings Even Important?
If you’re reading this, then you might be the kind of person to think that emotions only get in the way. You’re far from alone.
However, it’s impossible to ignore how important emotions are on both personal and interpersonal levels. It’s been that way since the dawn of mankind!
When you think about it, emotions are the reason why you and I are here today. If our ancestors hadn’t felt things like fear or empathy, the earliest civilizations wouldn’t have survived to become much more than a snack for hungry animals.
Emotions are inherent to our ability to adapt and survive, even now!
Let’s say you’re out on a jog. You’re about to cross a busy street when a car comes out of nowhere, barrelling toward you. Your natural instinct is to jump out of the way — a reaction rooted in fear.
It’s a feeling, even on a base level, that kept you alive.
On the other hand, feelings play a significant role in how we connect. Without empathy or love, we’d have a hard time finding a partner or raising our kids.
So let’s pose the question again: are feelings important? Absolutely, even if we don’t always like it!
Tips for Identifying Feelings
As important as feelings are, figuring out what we’re feeling isn’t always as easy as we’d like.
Here are a few steps you can take to increase your emotional intelligence.
Practice ‘I Feel’ Statements
This tip is going to seem silly, but it’s so helpful. The next time you find yourself in the midst of a heated conversation, take a deep breath and reflect.
As elementary as it might seem, there’s a simple pattern you can use to help suss out emotions. The premise is as follows:
- Identify the problem
- State an emotion that correlates to the said problem
- Explain how you reached that emotional conclusion
- Aim to find a mutual solution
If you’re still having trouble, there are worksheets that can help you talk through these tough situations.
While filling out one of these sheets will no doubt seem ridiculous, these worksheets are a fantastic resource for getting to the bottom of an issue and preventing further conflict.
Speak with a Counselor
Whether you’re feeling blue or angry or you're just like a neutral third party to listen, counseling is a constructive and healthy way to talk through your feelings. Counselors go through years of training to become licensed, so if there’s anyone that can help you figure out what you’re feeling, it’s a professional.
While there’s an unfortunate stigma surrounding counseling, speaking with a mental health professional isn’t any different than talking with a general practitioner. It’s all about keeping you healthy and happy!
So don’t be afraid to reach out and make that first appointment.
Start a Journal
If you’d rather keep things low-key, pick up a journal and dedicate 15 minutes per day to scribbling your thoughts.
Elaborate on the day’s situation and talk about what you’re feeling. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling, just get your feelings out on the page.
You’ll be surprised at how the simple act of writing down one’s feelings can make a world of difference.
Study Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions
If there’s a feeling, psychologist Robert Plutchik has mapped it out. Think of Plutchik’s wheel of emotions as the rosetta stone for feelings.
Each part of the wheel represents a different emotion, and each emotion correlates to another, broader emotion. For instance, annoyance and rage share a connection, while annoyance and boredom overlap to form contempt.
Like using the ‘I feel’ statement worksheets, referring to Plutchik’s wheel can seem unnatural at first. Use it anyway. In time, you won’t have to rely on the wheel to identify feelings at all.
Identify Stressful Situations
It’s impossible to get rid of stress altogether (no matter how nice it would be). Instead, put your focus on adapting by taking a proactive approach.
Next time you find yourself overwhelmed, assess the situation. Identify what, specifically, is leading to your feelings of stress, then find ways in which you can mitigate that stress.
Things like yoga and meditation or spending time with loved ones are great ways to keep stress levels at bay.
Identifying your own emotions is only half of the equation. To enjoy a happy, fruitful life, it’s important to think about what others are feeling, too.
Don’t worry, no one expects you to be a mind reader. Therefore, the solution is to practice empathy, and fortunately, you can practice with friends, family, or even your favorite TV show.
The next time you’re listening to someone talk, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself what they’re feeling at that moment. Then, follow-up by asking why they feel that way.
Empathy is a huge component of healthy relationships, and the more practice you can get, the easier recognizing emotions in others becomes.
Don’t forget to validate others’ emotions, too, even during disagreements. Everyone wants to feel seen and heard and empathizing can diffuse most situations.
A Healthy Life Starts with Emotional Intelligence
Feelings aren’t always fun. But identifying feelings is important for healthy relationships. Remember what we’ve talked about today and incorporate these tips into your everyday life.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments below! And for more info on how you can live your best life, make sure to check back with our blog.
- Cowen, Alan S. "Self-report captures 27 distinct categories of emotion bridged by continuous gradients." PNAS, 5 Sep. 2017, https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/08/30/1702247114.abstract
- " I Messages." Extension University of Wisconsin, https://fyi.extension.wisc.edu/rentsmart/files/2019/10/E-act-3-handout-2.pdf
- Karimova,Hokuma MA. "The Emotion Wheel: What It is and How to Use It [+PDF]." Positive Psychology, 31 Oct. 2020, https://positivepsychology.com/emotion-wheel/
- "Welcome to the Atlas of Emotions." Atlas Of Emotions, http://atlasofemotions.org/#introduction/
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