What are you feeling, right now, as you start to read this? Are you curious? Hopeful that you'll learn something about yourself? Bored because this is something you have to do for school and you're not really into it — or happy because it's a school project you enjoy? Perhaps you're distracted by something else, like feeling excited about your weekend plans or sad because you just went through a breakup.
Emotions like these are part of human nature. They give us information about what we're experiencing and help us know how to react.
We sense our emotions from the time we're babies. Infants and young children react to their emotions with facial expressions or with actions like laughing, cuddling, or crying. They feel and show emotions, but they don't yet have the ability to name the emotion or say why they feel that way.
As we grow up, we become more skilled in understanding emotions. Instead of just reacting like little kids do, we can identify what we feel and put it into words. With time and practice, we get better at knowing what we are feeling and why. This skill is called emotional awareness.
Emotional awareness helps us know what we need and want (or don't want!). It helps us build better relationships. That's because being aware of our emotions can help us talk about feelings more clearly, avoid or resolve conflicts better, and move past difficult feelings more easily.
Some people are naturally more in touch with their emotions than others. The good news is, everyone can be more aware of their emotions. It just takes practice. But it's worth the effort: Emotional awareness is the first step toward building emotional intelligence, a skill that can help people succeed in life.
Here are a few basic things about emotions:
Some emotions feel positive — like feeling happy, loving, confident, inspired, cheerful, interested, grateful, or included. Other emotions can seem more negative — like feeling angry, resentful, afraid, ashamed, guilty, sad, or worried. Both positive and negative emotions are normal.
All emotions tell us something about ourselves and our situation. But sometimes we find it hard to accept what we feel. We might judge ourselves for feeling a certain way, like if we feel jealous, for example. But instead of thinking we shouldn't feel that way, it's better to notice how we actually feel.
Avoiding negative feelings or pretending we don't feel the way we do can backfire. It's harder to move past difficult feelings and allow them to fade if we don't face them and try to understand why we feel that way. You don't have to dwell on your emotions or constantly talk about how you feel. Emotional awareness simply means recognizing, respecting, and accepting your feelings as they happen.
Emotional awareness helps us know and accept ourselves. So how can you become more aware of your emotions? Start with these three simple steps:
Just like anything else in life, when it comes to emotions, practice makes perfect! Remind yourself there are no good or bad emotions. Don't judge your feelings — just keep noticing and naming them.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: December 2012
|National Mental Health Association (NMHA) NMHA works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research, and service.|
|American Psychological Association (APA) The APA provides information and education about a variety of mental health issues for people of all ages.|
|Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) CMHS is a federal agency that provides information about mental health to users of mental health services, their families, the general public, policy makers, providers, and the media.|
|How Can I Deal With All My Stressful Situations? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Why Am I in Such a Bad Mood? Because of all the changes taking place in your life, you may feel like you're on an emotional roller coaster. Find out more about bad moods and why you have them.|
|Assertiveness Assertiveness is the ability to speak up for yourself in a way that is honest and respectful. But it doesn't come naturally to everyone. Find out if you're too passive, too aggressive, or just assertive enough.|
|5 Ways to (Respectfully) Disagree These 5 tips can help you disagree with someone in a constructive way - without losing it or shying away from how you feel.|
|Emotional Intelligence Just as IQ is a way of being academically smart, emotional intelligence (EQ) is a way of being people-smart. But unlike IQ, we can work on improving our EQ. Here are some tips.|
|Apologizing We all mess up at times. An apology tells someone that we're sorry for the hurt we caused — even if we didn't do it on purpose. But does an apology fix everything? And how should you handle it if someone apologizes to you? Find out here.|
|Dealing With Anger Do you wonder why you fly off the handle so easily sometimes? Do you wish you knew healthier ways to express yourself when you're steamed? Check out this article for help with dealing with anger.|
|5 Ways to Be More Aware of Your Emotions Emotional awareness (knowing what we feel and why) helps us learn about ourselves and build good relationships. Here are 5 ways to get more in touch with your emotions.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.