As we grow up, we get better at knowing what we are feeling and why. This skill is called emotional awareness. Understanding our emotions can help us relate to other people, know what we want, and make choices. Even emotions we consider "negative" (like anger or sadness) can give us insight into ourselves and others.
Emotional awareness comes more easily to some people than others. The good news is, it's a skill that anyone can practice. Here are a few ways to become more in touch with your emotions:
Notice and name your emotions. Start by just noticing different emotions as you feel them. Name them to yourself. For example, you might say, "I feel proud" when a class presentation goes well, "I feel disappointed" at not doing well on a test, or "I feel friendly" when sitting with a group at lunch.
Track one emotion. Pick a familiar emotion — like joy — and track it throughout the day. Notice how often you feel it and when. Whenever that emotion shows up, you can simply make a mental note to yourself or jot it down in a journal. Notice where you are, who you're with, and what you're doing when that emotion is present. Note whether the emotion is mild, medium, or strong and if it has different intensities at different times.
Build your emotional vocabulary. How many emotions can you name? Try going through the alphabet and thinking of one emotion for each letter.
Think of related emotions that vary in intensity. For example, you might be irritated, annoyed, mad, angry, irate, or fuming. See how many of these "emotion families" you can come up with.
Keep a feelings journal. Take a few minutes each day to write about how you feel and why. Journaling about your experiences and feelings builds emotional awareness. You also can express an emotion creatively. Make art, write poetry, or compose music that captures a specific emotion you're feeling.
There's lots more you can try, of course. For example, you can try identifying the emotions an artist is trying to convey as you read poetry or listen to music, then recognize how you feel in response.
The more you're aware of your emotions, the more they'll help you to know yourself and understand the people around you.