Congratulations, you’ve reached the skills content for this week! Let’s jump straight in.
Understanding and naming your emotions
In the last section we learned about emotions and why we have them. Given that our aim is not to get rid of difficult emotions, we must learn ways to befriend them. A good starting point is to understand and be able to name emotions when they show up for us. After all, if we don’t know what we are feeling, what chance do we have of responding effectively?
Naming our emotions is a helpful practice for reducing emotional distress and increasing positive emotions. To understand what is going on for us and to be able to communicate this effectively to others to get our needs met, we need to be aware of what we are feeling. We also must be able to accurately put words to this experience. To do this, you will need to draw on the mindfulness skills of ‘observing’ and ‘describing’ from last week.
How to observe, describe, and name your emotions:
- Start by noticing your thoughts, feelings, and any physical sensations in your body. Don’t try to change them, simply notice
- Notice areas of tension, comfort, discomfort, or pain. Where do they sit in your body? How do they feel? What shape, size and qualities do they have? Simply observe with curiosity and avoid reacting to them
- Non-judgmentally observe your emotional state and any urges that accompany it. Do not try to push away or hold on to anything
- Allow your thoughts and feelings to come and go as they please. See if your emotions change over time – Do they get more or less intense? Do they move locations in your body?
- Add descriptive words to your experiences (e.g., “I’m feeling anger”, “I notice the urge to hurt someone”, “my shoulders feel tight”, “my jaw and fists are clenched”). Avoid making assumptions about why you feel this way and steer clear of using judgemental language
- If your mind wanders or you find yourself judging, simply note this and bring yourself back to the exercise (e.g., “mind wandering”, “mind judging”)
- Continue this for at least a few minutes
- Towards the end of the exercise, if you haven’t already, see if you can identify and name the emotion you are feeling. If there are several emotions, which is strongest? This may be your primary emotion. Also try to name your secondary emotions if you can.
Have a go at the above exercise, first when you are calm, and later when you are experiencing a strong emotion. You will need to practice this technique many times for it to become automatic. To help you name your emotions, we have included a list of some common emotions to get you started. A simple google search for ‘wheel of emotions’ will give you even more ideas.
- Happy – Proud
- Sad – Lonely
- Hurt – Fearful
- Worried – Angry
- Hostile – Helpless
- Disgusted – Ashamed
- Guilty – Surprised
- Inferior – Embarrassed
- Rejected – Insecure
- Bored – Optimistic
- Loving – Content
- Envious – Jealous