Earlier this week I set a goal to be more attentive to how I’m feeling, to encourage a sense of emotional awareness. I enjoyed the practice and I’d like to continue it, so here’s what I found helpful:
- Find a trigger. When are you going to ask yourself how you’re feeling? It’s too difficult to just remember to do it, so having a time or action to prompt you can be very helpful. I took a minute (and it really only takes a minute) during my drive to work, on each of my three breaks at work, as I walked into my apartment after work, and just before going to sleep to check in with myself. Having several different triggers gives you plenty of opportunity to cultivate awareness, even if you happen to miss a couple or it turns out that one of your triggers isn’t very effective.
- Awareness does not necessitate action. Start off small. Notice how you are feeling and if you can easily make an improvement, feel free to do so. However, the initial goal is to get in the habit of noticing our emotions, nothing more. Telling ourselves we have to immediately change every negative emotion creates an enormous burden; why would we turn that burden into a habit? Instead, note your feelings, offer yourself some compassion, and move on. Do not get caught up in negative self-talk.
- Write it down. Once or twice a day, I actually write down a sentence or two about what I’m feeling. Nothing long, just enough to acknowledge my emotions. It helps when I’m struggling to identify them, and it helps illustrate patterns. Right now the patterns aren’t important, but once emotional awareness has become a habit, we’re going to want to change the negative patterns and encourage the positive ones.
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How do you cultivate emotional awareness? How do you incorporate how you feel into your life in a helpful way?