Being in tune with your emotions may sound straightforward, but it isn’t. For example, have you ever found yourself irritated by a person that has literally done nothing more than ask you how your day was?
Many people overestimate their level of self-awareness. Even people who think they’re in touch with their emotions—perhaps they cry or laugh easily—often don’t recognize the full spectrum of their feelings.
Improving self-awareness can require digging a little deeper.
Improved self-awareness is one of the benefits of mindfulness. Focusing on the here and now and being present, accepting whatever arises in your awareness without judgment, can help build emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
To help focus on emotions, try doing this.
Sit quietly in a comfortable position with your eyes closed and start to think about something sad, but not overwhelming. Notice where in your body you’re feeling the sadness and place one of your hands there in a caring and soothing way. Repeat the steps, but use different emotions, such as fear, anger, and joy.
Increasing self-awareness of these sensations can help you become more emotionally intelligent. By looking at emotions more carefully, you can learn how the body responds to an image, thought, or situation. The better you can recognize your body, the more you’ll be able to know when a certain feeling is arising.
Sensations can be an early warning signal for negative emotions that you might not want to act on immediately. Let’s just imagine your partner says something that bugs you in front of some close friends. Take a moment to recognize your body’s sensations, but don’t respond immediately. Wait a moment—or longer—to think clearly before responding.
Journaling can also help improve emotional intelligence, as can talking with trusted friends, family members, or a therapist.
Mat Lecompte is a health and wellness reporter for Bel Marra Health, which first published this article.